A 16-year-old boy in Turkey has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison for kissing his 13-year-old girlfriend after teachers found his schoolmates sharing video of the event.
A court in southern Antalya Province on Friday found the boy guilty of sexual abuse under a law that forbids sexual conduct with children under the age of 15. Video filmed by a schoolmate showing the boy hugging and kissing the girl in the schoolyard was used as evidence.
Five other children — all school friends ages 13 to 16, including one who filmed the episode and others who shared it — were charged with using children to produce obscene images and spreading them. They were all acquitted.
Zuhal Merve Ozfidan, the 16-year-old boy’s lawyer, said she would appeal the verdict, and declined to share the details of the case as it involves minors. The boy remains free pending appeal.
An expert report presented to the court had recommended that there was no need for punishment because of the boy’s age, said Sevcan Aydin Uzun, a lawyer for one of the acquitted children.
“I am surprised the course of events reached this point,” Aydin said. “If the verdict is upheld, he would go to jail for four and a half years. He would have a criminal record, cannot be a public officer, lawyer, prosecutor, etc. Should it be that heavy? It is debatable.”
The daily newspaper Hurriyet reported that the boy and girl had met up in the schoolyard and hugged and kissed.
A teacher who found the other children sharing the video referred the case to the school police, who brought it before prosecutors. School police are a relatively new introduction in Turkey, instituted for reasons of child protection, in particular to tackle drug dealing and manage school bus traffic.
A series of instances of child abuse in recent years, including a case of children abused in the dormitories of a religious foundation, have caused a growing public uproar, prompting calls for tougher sentencing.
Nationalist lawmakers have called for the reintroduction of the death sentence in Turkey after cases of young children found abused and murdered emerged several months ago.
The age of consent in Turkey is 15. In 2016, the government introduced heavier penalties for abuse of children under the age of 12, and it has increasingly enforced a ban on marriage under the age of 18, insisting on a court order for anyone wanting to marry between age 16 and 18.
Yet raising the marriage age has led to unforeseen consequences. Any sexual contact between the sexes in the traditional society of rural Turkey is taboo, and families have traditionally arranged marriages for their children as early as 15 or younger, reports The New York Times.
In 2016, the prime minister at the time, Binali Yildirim, acknowledged that there were 3,000 men in jail for fathering children with underage girls. A government amendment to postpone the men’s sentences was abandoned amid accusations that it would let rapists marry their victims.
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