There are more than 180,000 child brides in Turkey, a female-rights lawyer has claimed.
Around third of all marriages in the country are between an elder man and a child, according to statistics from a Turkey Population and Health Research survey.
And lawyer Nuriye Kadan, an executive member of the İzmir Bar Association Central, said: “There are 181,036 child brides in our country, unfortunately.”
In 2002, the legal age of marriage for girls was raised to 17 years old, although the civil code allows for marriage at the age of 16, with the consent of the court in “exceptional circumstances”.
Speaking at a conference to address the issue on Sunday, Ms Kadan said: “Nearly 20,000 parents filed applications to marry off their under-16 girls in 2012.”
Child marriage in Turkey has been a longstanding problem, but reliable statistics around the issue are scarce. Research conducted by the United Nations Population Fund in 2013 indicated 28 per cent of marriage in Turkey involved girls aged under 18.
The situation has not been helped by the current political and economic climate.
A huge influx of refugees – often women and children – from Syria and Iraq is thought to have pushed numbers up.
Parents are faced with the decision to either marry their daughters to strangers or attempt to protect them from the volatile conditions in refugee camps.
Globally, around 15 million girls are married as children. A total of 90 per cent of adolescent pregnancies occur within marriage, and are the leading cause of death in girls aged 15 to 19 in low to middle-income countries.