Turkish minister vows all-out fight against child abuse

BETIL BAŞ
ISTANBUL
Published

Stepping up its fight against the sexual abuse of children, the government mulls heavier and deterring sentences for offenders and starts a campaign to address the problem. Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya, Minister of Family and Social Policies, spoke about the details of their fight against the issue.

The matter was under the spotlight recently after a public outcry over the abuse of a 4-year-old girl by her neighbor. The government launched a joint committee of several ministries to come up with ways to fight the disturbing phenomenon. Kaya, whose ministry offers support to affected children and families, says they work on both punishment of offenders and protection of children. "Any case of abuse leaves deep scars on public. Abuse of children is a crime against humanity. We will work on increasing prison sentences against the convicted offenders and expand preventive measures so that such cases will not repeat," she says. Speaking on the abuse of the 4-year-old girl, she said it was "an inhumane act of violence" and said her ministry was closely monitoring the process regarding both the victim and the perpetrator who was arrested after he was caught red-handed. The perpetrator faces up to 66 years in prison while social services offer psycho-social support to the victim and her family. The ministry sent lawyers to Adana where the crime took place and Kaya said they would "exert every effort so that the culprit will be handed down the heaviest sentence," she said.

The ministry also works on a new campaign that will teach children about the privacy of body parts and physical boundaries. Kaya says Turkish Penal Code already has aggravated sentences for offenders in sexual abuse cases and the courts may hand down sentences up to aggravated life imprisonment. "One issue we consider as the joint committee (of ministries) is removing reduction in sentences if a convict shows good conduct," the minister said. A controversial law allows defendants to receive quite lenient sentences for serious offenses if a court deems that the defendant "showed respect to the court members" during the trial process and has no criminal history. Most courts, nevertheless, overrule sentence reduction in child abuse cases. "The good conduct clause hurts the public conscience and we will work on amending it," Kaya says. The minister added that chemical castration of convicted offenders was also under consideration. The government last week has announced the introduction of chemical castration for convicts while they serve their sentences.

Kaya said they also worked on protecting children when they go online and work in cooperation with the cybercrimes unit of police to detect the online abuse of children.

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