The Turkish Parliament’s Justice Committee has approved a new judicial reform package which stipulates that instead of taking victim testimony, tangible evidence will be required in child abuse cases, making it more difficult for abusers to be prosecuted, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing BBC Turkish service.
According to the new regulation, witness testimony or other forms of tangible evidence such as DNA samples will be necessary for a conviction.
Children’s rights activists have criticized the new regulation, saying it would further enable child abusers and pedophiles to continue their abuse without consequences.
Women’s Assemblies said on Twitter that the reform package would pave the way for injustice and that they would not remain silent to child abuse.
In a letter to the Ministry of Justice, UCIM, a non-profit fighting child abuse, said, “Most incidents of abuse occur in secret and in places where nobody can witness it. Moreover, many children find the courage to speak about their abuse a long time after it happened. This makes it nearly impossible to find concrete evidence or witnesses.”
UCIM said the new reform was a huge disadvantage for abuse victims because concrete evidence can mainly be collected at the time of the abuse. “Many children are abused within the confines of their home, and the incidents are kept secret for a long time,” said UCIM. “The new regulation will only make it harder for child abusers to be prosecuted.”
According to social workers, although awareness of child abuse has increased, there is still much to be done to prevent it from happening. Children are not well enough educated at the time to recognize abuse and speak about it to an adult they can trust. Social workers also point out that there are not enough inspections or adequate supervision of boarding schools and summer schools where children spend a considerable amount of time with adults.
Speaking to BBC Turkish service, social worker Emrah Kırımsoy said 45 children were abused for four years in a boarding school in Karaman province. “This shows how little supervision there is when it comes to public institutions,” he said.
Turkey ratified the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, also known as the Lanzarote Convention, in 2011. According to the convention Turkey is not only responsible for prosecuting child abusers but also preventing child abuse.
Despite the convention children are the victims of 46 percent of all sexual assault cases in Turkey. Moreover, Turkey ranks third in sexual abuse cases worldwide. According to Ministry of Justice data, sexual misconduct against children increased 29 percent between 2012 and 2019.