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Turkey withdrew child rape bill for further work

Turkey withdrew child rape bill for further workTurkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has withdrawn a bill that pardons men convicted of sex with underage girls if they have married them, BBC said on Tuesday.

The bill, which would have allowed the release from jail of men convicted of raping an underage girl if they married their victim, was approved in an initial reading in parliament on Thursday.

The bill is a part of a package of amendments to the legal system. It was sent back for further work just hours before a final vote in parliament.

The move had sparked protests across Turkish society and was condemned abroad. Critics said it would legitimise statutory rape and encourage the practice of taking child brides.

UN agencies had called on the government not to approve the bill, arguing that it would damage the country's ability to combat sexual abuse and child marriage.

But the government says the main aim is to exonerate men imprisoned for marrying an underage girl apparently with her or her family's consent.

Turkey's legal age of consent is 18 but the practice of underage weddings in religious ceremonies remains widespread.

Prime Minister Yildirim said the bill was being sent back in order to allow for "broad consensus" and to "give time for the opposition parties to develop their proposals".

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag had defended the legislation, saying: "The bill will certainly not bring amnesty to rapists.... This is a step taken to solve a problem in some parts of our country."

More than 800,000 people signed an online petition for the legislation to be withdrawn.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Istanbul and other cities at the weekend, piling pressure on AK Party lawmakers who finally announced they would revise the bill.

In July, Turkey's constitutional court annulled part of the criminal code which classified all sexual acts with children under 15 as sexual abuse.
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