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Child Marriage Awareness Panel, a panel intended for women refugees, was held on the 27th of September, 2017 in Adana. The panel was developed by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) which was organized in cooperation with the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (SGDD-ASAM), the implementing partner of UNFPA in Turkey. The panel is aimed to raise awareness of and attract attention to child marriages, a serious human rights violation against children, also a significant problem among refugee families seeking help in Turkey. In the panel, participants held presentations on Physical, Psychological and Social Dimensions of Child Marriages, Legal Status and Obligations in Early Age Marriages in Turkey and Child Marriages from the Islamic Perspective

The Child Marriage Awareness Panel that was organized with the cooperation of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (SGDD-ASAM). was financed by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. In the panel held in Adana, 325 refugee women participated.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Turkey Representative Karl Kulessa, who made the opening speech in the event, said: ‘’Child marriage is a violation of human rights; it is in fact the most injurious violation that leaves hurtful impacts on an individual. The decision on when and whom one will marry should be a decision an individual takes at his/her own will without any influence or pressure or distress on the individual. Being ready to get married is not sufficient; one has to be of full legal age to take a decision to get married. Children who are forced to drop out of school and cannot continue their schooling due to child marriage have no chance to benefit from economic opportunities. The decisions they can take for their own lives and options to choose from are reduced to a minimum and in many cases are determined by others’’.

In his opening speech Mr. İlker Cece, East Anatolian Regional Coordinator of the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (SGDD-ASAM) said: “Within our activities we are helping refugees to adapt to the society. We have found out in the field that child marriage stands out as a problem among the refugee communities. Having identified the problem, we have decided to develop projects to create awareness in order to find a solution. We consider child marriages as an important obstacle hindering children to complete their education and as a fundamental human rights violation that also leads to fatal consequences for children. Hence, we place great emphasis on such events that create awareness of child marriages’’.

In his opening speech, on the other hand, Dr. Tanju Altınsu, Assistant Director of the Provincial Directorate of Health in Adana, said: “How can an individual of child age bear a child and assume the responsibilities? How can a girl having no economic means provide sustenance for her child? Child marriages give rise to domestic violence and threats that can lead to fatal consequences for the health of mothers in young ages and infants. We frequently observe that girls forced to get married at child age are subjected to violence, but maternal mortality is the most dramatic consequence. Due to their immature gynaecological structure, mortality arising from pregnancy is frequently seen in these children.’’

Dr. Nazan Akçalı, Public Health Specialist Provincial Directorate of Health in Adana, made a presentation during the panel with the theme Physical, Psychological and Social Dimensions of Child Marriages. ‘’Every year, 10 million girls under the age of 18 are married all over the world.’’ She said: ‘’This is only the figure of officially recorded marriages. We have therefore no exact data on child marriages. In our country child marriage is more frequently seen in Central and East Anatolian. In some cases, we observe that girls consider the early marriage as an escape from psychological and economic problems in their own families. Children can also see such marriages as an escape from problems arising from traumas during armed conflicts and disasters. Pregnancy in child marriages bring along numerous health problems, miscarriage and maternal mortality being the most important problems in this respect. Such health problems show that these girls are not yet physically and biologically ready for a pregnancy’’. 

Mrs. Deniz Eylem Çoşkun, Lawyer and President of the Women’s Rights Commission in the Bar Association of Adana also held a presentation with the theme Legal Status and Obligations in Early Age Marriages in Turkey. She said: “Article 124 of the Civil Code stipulates that individuals cannot get married until they turn 18. In other words, they have to complete their 17th years of age in accordance with the law. If you observe or hear about people who force their children to get married at early age, you have to report them to the judicial authorities. You should share what you have learnt here today in this panel in your social circle; you should communicate the related laws and sanctions in Turkey to your relatives and friends.’’

Mrs. Nesrin Semiz from Capital City Women’s Platform Association also made a presentation with the theme Child Marriages from the Islamic Perspective. She said:’Islam gives great importance to human life. Loss of human life in pregnancies that occur in marriages of individuals under 18 years of age – mortality of child mothers and infants – finds a clear reference in the verse ‘’Murdering a human being is murdering the whole humanity’’. The religion of Islam never accepts child marriages that disturb the well-being of an individual and public peace. Physical maturity of a girl does not mean that she is ready for marriage; she must also be mentally and spiritually ready to get marry; she must be able to decide at her own will and discretion. Marriage only comes in question when prospective spouses reach a stage of maturity where they can maintain their life and contribute to their community.’’  

Two women participants from Syria, who were married at early age, also made speeches and shared their experiences. One of the refugee women said: ‘’I was born in Syria and have two children. I was forced to marry at early age. I had to live in a family and household that was completely unfamiliar to me. I assumed great responsibility. I told my husband that I wanted to continue my education. He said; ‘How on earth! You have responsibilities; you have no time for school’. I was upset. I bore a child when I was myself a child. I longed for my days at school when I was breastfeeding my baby. I began to feel lonely. I have begun to attend school here in Turkey. I have decided to resume my education. But now I have difficulty; I am not as willing as before. I don’t want that my daughters experience the same problems. I want to support them to complete their education. I believe that education and work are factors that empower women’’.

Another refugee woman also made a speech in the panel. She said: ‘’I was married when I was still at school age. I assumed numerous responsibilities I had never known and heard of before; I did household chores and managed the household. I had to face difficult situations. I got pregnant at a very early age. I fell into depression. I had to face all the difficulties I had to go through all alone. I suffered from the impacts of a marriage in early age. Please share what you have learned here in your social circle; try to influence the families who force their children to get married at early age. We must all be courageous to inspire changes.’’

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), with support of its various implementing partners and with the finance received for various international donors, continues to organize "Child Marriage Awareness Panel" series of nearly 30, whose content is specifically developed for men and women, in many different provinces of Turkey.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) was established in 1969 and as the biggest aid source with international funding in the area of population operating around the world. UNFPA operates in more than 150 countries for creating policies and strategies that support sustainable development. Having started its activities on a project basis, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has been working on reproductive health, encouraging social gender equality, collecting, using and distributing data about development and humanitarian aid in Turkey since 1971. Within this framework, the first Country Program lasted from 1988 to 1992 and now the Sixth Country Program (2016-2020) is being executed.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) works to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled. To this end, UNFPA focuses especially 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); SDG 3: Good health and well-being, SDG 4: Quality Education, SDG 5: Gender Equality and finally, SDG 17: Partnerships for Goals

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