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EU Warns Turkey Against Criminalizing Adultery - 2004-09-09


A top European Union official has cautioned Turkey against plans to make adultery a crime, saying it could hurt Turkey's effort to join the Union. The warning comes ahead of a crucial EU report that will assess Turkey's progress towards meeting EU criteria for membership.

The EU enlargement commissioner, Guenter Verheugen, told the daily Vatan newspaper that a Turkish government proposal to revive laws that make adultery a punishable offense could create the impression that Turkey is moving closer to Islamic rule.

Mr. Verheugen, who has just ended a five-day fact-finding mission in Turkey, described the measures as "a joke." EU leaders are set to decide whether to begin membership talks with Turkey in December, at their last summit of the year.

Facing down stiff criticism from the EU, Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, continues to support the plan to outlaw adultery. He says the measure is aimed at defending family honor and at protecting women who are betrayed by their husbands.

Turkey's Justice Minister, Cemil Cicek, says the government proposed the law under pressure from Turkish women, who he said want adultery to be a criminal offense. Laws banning adultery were scrapped in 1996 after the constitutional court ruled they were unfairly applied to women.

Women's advocacy groups have widely condemned the proposal, saying it will encourage violence against women. They are set to stage a mass demonstration at the Turkish Parliament when it convenes on September 14 to debate proposed amendments to Turkey's Penal Code. Most of the changes are intended to bring Turkey's legal system into line with EU standards.

Some Turkish analysts see the inclusion of the law on adultery as an effort by the Islam-rooted ruling Justice and Development Party to placate its conservative constituents. Many of them have been angered by the government's failure to deliver on pre-election pledges to ease bans on the Islamic style headscarf in government offices and schools.

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