Associated factors of legal child marriage in Turkey: Pregnancy and below-average intelligence


Yilmaz S., Akyuz F. , Arslan N. M.

Journal of Biosocial Science, 2021 (Journal Indexed in SCI Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Doi Number: 10.1017/s0021932021000584
  • Title of Journal : Journal of Biosocial Science
  • Keywords: Marriage and mate selection, Maternal and child health, Reproductive health

Abstract

© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press.Turkish civil code permits child marriages at 16-17 years of age, but if a child is 16 years old judicial consent is needed. Before making a final decision on marriage consent, the judges refer these children to the doctor, and ask whether they are psychologically and physically ready for marriage. While the literature on child marriage in Turkey is rich, little is known about the underlying factors leading 16-year-old girls to request legal child marriage. This study examined the socio-demographic and clinical characteristics of girls applying to the courts for judicial marriage consent. Hospital records of girls admitted to a hospital in the Istanbul province of Turkey between January 2015 and December 2018 for the assessment of their physical and mental readiness for marriage were scanned. Of the 122 girls admitted to hospital for this purpose, eight were excluded as they had incomplete data, leaving 114 participating girls. All girls were Turkish citizens and had been referred from the law courts. Being pregnant/having a child (54.4%), having had a religious (non-legal) marriage (49.1%) and having an intelligence score of less than 90 (91.2%) were common among the participants. Among those who had a religious marriage, 78.6% were pregnant/had a child at the time of evaluation and 32.1% reported that they were pregnant before their religious marriage took place. None of the participants reported being forced to marry, but many had run away from home to marry (33.3%). Among those running away to marry, the major reason for deciding to do this was being pregnant (63.2%). Running away from home to marry was found to be related to lower parental educational levels (p<0.05). Contrary to the literature, the findings indicate that girls who request judicial consent for legal child marriage in Turkey are not being forced to marry. However, lower educational level seems to be an important factor. Below-average intelligence of the girl and her parents, running away from home to marry and early unsafe sexual intercourse, leading to child pregnancy, were found to be closely associated with legal child marriage in Turkey.