Men who had sex with underage girls could have their convictions overturned if they marry their victims, under a bill due before Turkey's parliament on Tuesday, BBC reports.

 

The Turkish government said the bill is not intended to pardon rapists, but to address underage marriage.

 

The law would allow the release of men who assaulted a minor "without force" and later married the victim.

 

The controversial bill has already sparked protests across the country.

 

However, the bill faces opposition from both public and political opposition, and may be withdrawn or changed before the vote in parliament.

 

In its current form, the bill applies to men who had sexual relations with girls under the age of 18. It allows the indefinite postponement of sentences for sexual abuse committed "without force, threat or trick".

 

The government said the aim was to exonerate men imprisoned for marrying an underage girl, apparently with her or her family's consent.

 

Marriage under the age of 18 is illegal in Turkey, but is practised in some parts of the large, predominantly Muslim country.

 

However, critics say that children cannot give consent, especially in a male-dominated culture, and the bill legitimises rape.

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