President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signed a much debated bill into law stipulating that a religious civil servant, also known by the Arabic name "mufti," can register civil marriages as of Friday. The law passed in October by Parliament was published in the official gazette on Friday.
The bill was recently proposed by the government to reduce the number of unregistered marriages.
Many government officials have reiterated numerous times that the law will not pave the way for child marriages but rather will prevent them, because the muftis will only have the authority to perform registered, official marriages. The government also defends the law on the grounds that it will facilitate marriage procedures. According to the Turkish civil code that regulates marriage and family life, both people must be at least 18 years of age but this age can be reduced to 17 with parental consent or with court approval in special cases, in order to legally marry. This is also in line with Western standards. Also, the law does not propose any amendment to the civil code. Therefore, the legal age for marriage will remain the same. A majority of Muslims in Turkey already organize religious marriage ceremonies performed by imams, in addition to civil marriages. A marriage ceremony performed by an imam is not legally binding and, on the other hand, most citizens prefer only civil marriage ceremonies. This option will still be available for people who choose to have their marriage registered by a mayor or another official.