Vastavam web: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has signed into law a controversial legislation to let state- approved clerics conduct marriage ceremonies, a move critics claim risks undermining Turkey’s secular foundations.The government-championed measure, passed by parliament last month in the face of bitter opposition, was published today in the Official Gazette following Erdogan’s signature yesterday, which means it has now come into force.
Turkey is an overwhelmingly Muslim nation but an official secular state under its constitution as set up by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, in 1923.”The AKP has taken another step that harms the state’s secular pillars and that moves people away from secularism,” Sezgin Tanrikulu, an MP with the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) which was founded by Ataturk, told AFP.
Until now, the law has stipulated that even religiously observant couples must be married by a state registrar from the local municipality, not a cleric.But Tanrikulu said the law was “not an actual need” and expressed fear that citizens would feel under pressure to have a religious marriage as this would go down in records that could be examined by future employers.
“The seeds of such a discriminatory practice are being sown today,” he said.Tanrikulu expressed concern in particular that the change will exacerbate an already existing problem in the country with child marriage.But the law has been a priority for the government and in October, Erdogan told the opposition that the law would pass “whether you like it or not.”
Erdogan and the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been repeatedly accused by critics of eroding the secular pillars of modern Turkey.Erdogan’s governments have notably eased restrictions on wearing the Islamic headscarf in education, politics, the police and most recently the army.
The government rejects the criticsm, arguing it allows freedom of worship for all Turkish citizens and the lifting of headscarf bans merely brought Turkey into line with the rules in many Western, non-majority Muslim, nations.