Turkey on course to ban adultery

Turkey's government is set to pass a ban on adultery that will put it on a collision course with the European Union it seeks to join.

    Erdogan has backed the adultery law

    The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)

    wants to criminalise

    adultery as part of penal code amendments that are otherwise

    aimed mainly at bringing it into line with European norms.

    Parliament meets in a special session on Tuesday to debate

    the penal code overhaul, and with its huge AKP majority it looks

    sure to pass the adultery clause unless the government decides

    to water it down or postpone it in the face of EU disapproval.

    If it is passed a legal tussle will almost certainly ensue

    with President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, who has a record of vetoing

    legislation he regards as anti-secular.

    A final draft of the adultery clause has not been published

    as the government says it is still under discussion, but AKP

    officials say it envisages jail sentences of up to two years.

    The government says criminalising adultery will protect the

    family and strengthen women's rights - a major EU concern - by

    giving them legal clout against unfaithful husbands.

    Liberal concerns

    Fears in some quarters that the law would be a "snooper's

    charter" appear to be eased by reports that only a husband or

    wife could initiate proceedings rather than third parties such

    as the state, as is the case in some Muslim states.

    However, the idea of jailing people for conduct that in Europe

    would at most be handled under civil law has outraged Turkish

    liberals and women's groups and sparked EU warnings that it

    could harm Ankara's chances of a start date for accession talks.

    "This has come from Erdogan himself.

    There are a number of deputies in the AKP who think this is

    not a proper idea, or if it is a proper idea it's not the proper

    time... but Erdogan is taking it as a challenge to his power"

    Murat Yetkin,
    Newspaper columnist

    Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht was the latest to

    blast the plan on Sunday, echoing warnings by EU Enlargement

    Commissioner Guenter Verheugen that it gives the impression that

    Muslim but firmly secular Turkey is moving towards Islamic law.

    The EU's verdict on Turkey is imminent - EU leaders will

    decide in December whether to open talks, drawing on a progress

    report next month by the executive European Commission - and

    many analysts are perplexed by the timing of the proposal.

    "Either the AKP has no understanding of the concept of

    'timing' or it is we who don't understand what is going on,"

    commentator Mehmet Ali Birand wrote in a weekend media column.

    Islamic reforms

    Like other Muslim-oriented reforms mooted by the government,

    such as easing laws against wearing headscarves in public life,

    the adultery proposal has touched a raw nerve among liberal

    Turks who fear the AKP has a hidden, Islamist agenda.

    The government, which sprang from a banned Islamist party

    but now rejects that label, quietly allowed the headscarf and

    similar controversies to fade off the immediate agenda after

    they raised concerns in Turkey's powerful secular establishment.

    Officials say the law will protect
    the family and womens' rights

    Some say it may do the same on adultery, perhaps feeling it

    miscalculated the EU's response.

    But others say Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, himself a

    devout Muslim, looks unlikely to back down this time.

    "This has come from Erdogan himself," said Murat Yetkin of

    the liberal daily Radikal.

    "There are a number of deputies in the AKP who think this is

    not a proper idea, or if it is a proper idea it's not the proper

    time ... but Erdogan is taking it as a challenge to his power."

    SOURCE: Reuters


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