Istanbul rally held for women's rights after sex bill furore

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Thousands rallied in Istanbul in support of women's rights on Friday after a controversial sex bill affecting underage girls was thrown out by a parliamentary committee this week. At least two thousand people gathered in Turkey's biggest city on the international day for stopping violence against women, AFP correspondents at the scene reported.

 

"We are resisting" and "with resistance we are winning," the crowd chanted, holding placards denouncing "the  male-dominated state". A Turkish group against femicide posted on its website that from 2012 to the present, 1,160 women had been killed in Turkey including 223 so far this year.

 

Earlier this week, the government withdrew a bill from parliament that would have allowed the release from jail of men convicted of sexually assaulting underage girls if they marry their victims. Critics had said the bill would legitimise the rape of minors, while the proposals united a usually fractured opposition against it.

 

Umran Ozdemir at the protest in Istanbul said that women joined together against the bill and forced the government to "take a step back". Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag and other government officials had rejected critics' claims that it would have legalised child rape.

 

They insisted it was aimed at helping thousands of families where the father had been jailed for sexual assault after his underage partner became pregnant. During the protest in Istanbul's famous Istiklal Avenue, women also used the Turkish hashtag #herHALdedireniyoruz on Twitter and on placards, meaning "we resist in every situation".

 

But it is also a play on the Turkish word "OHAL", which refers to a phrase that means state of emergency. It is a reference to the emergency imposed since the July 15 failed coup and extended last month, which activists claim has gone beyond its remit of dealing with the fallout of the coup bid and is penalising government opponents.

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