Thousands Protest in Istanbul Over Controversial Child Sex-assault Bill

Several thousand people protested in Istanbul Saturday against a controversial bill that would overturn men's convictions for child sex assault if they marry their victims.

At least 3,000 people marched Saturday in Kadikoy square, on the city's Asian side, according to the French news agency AFP.

The protesters held banners that read "#Rape cannot be legitimized" and "AKP Take Your Hands Off My Body," a reference to the ruling party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which introduced the bill, .

The government said the legislation was aimed at dealing with the widespread custom of child marriages, blaming protesters for distorting the bill's aim.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag on Saturday, however, said the bill would not pardon rapists.

On Tuesday, legislators will resume debate on the measures, which were approved in an initial parliamentary reading on November 17.

If passed, the law would allow the release from prison of men guilty of assaulting a minor if the act was committed without "force, threat, or any other restriction on consent" and if the aggressor "marries the victim."

The legal age of consent in Turkey is 18. However, it is not uncommon, especially in the rural areas of the Sunni Muslim nation, for marriages betwene men and underage girls.

Opponents of the proposal including lawmakers, dozens of rights groups, women's associations and child NGOs, including the U.N. children's fund, which told AFP Saturday it was "deeply concerned" over the bill.

Source: Voice of America