European Court of Human Rights Rules 300-Day Waiting Period for Divorced Women in Turkey as Discriminatory
Striking Down a Discriminatory Practice: The ECHR Ruling
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has issued a significant decision, determining that the 300-day waiting period required of divorced women to remarry in Turkey is a discriminatory practice. This mandatory waiting period, known as the ‘iddat’ period in the local legal vocabulary, has been a source of considerable controversy.
The judgment was about a case against Turkey by a plaintiff named Nurcan Bayraktar. The Court stated unequivocally that the mandatory waiting period contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights.
The ECHR’s Unanimous Verdict and Its Implications
In its unanimous decision, the ECHR cited specific breaches of the Convention, notably Article 8, which regulates the right to respect for private life, and Article 14, which unequivocally prohibits discrimination. This judgment sets an important precedent in recognizing the right of women to choose when to remarry following a divorce freely.
According to Turkish law, divorced women must wait a minimum of 300 days after their divorce is finalized before they are allowed to remarry. This law applies exclusively to women and not men, leading to accusations of gender discrimination. Women wishing to remarry before this period must undergo medical tests to prove they are not pregnant.
An Outdated Law Challenged: The Iddat Period in the Turkish Civil Code
The 300-day waiting period is codified in Article 132 of the Turkish Civil Code. The ECHR’s decision specifically challenges this provision, stating that the waiting period and the requirement for a medical document to confirm non-pregnancy is unjustifiable. This ruling marks a significant step in the battle for gender equality in Turkey.
The Court’s Decision: A Stand Against Gender Discrimination
The court not only deemed the practice unjustifiable but also declared it a form of direct gender discrimination. It rejected the argument that the rule serves as a measure to prevent uncertainty over the identity of a child’s father. The court also held that such a gender-specific treatment was unnecessary and could not be justified.
Interestingly, the ECHR emphasized the irrelevance of the aim to prevent ‘confusion in the genealogy,’ or establishing the biological paternity of a child, in contemporary society.
What’s Next: A Chance for Final Appeal
Following the ECHR’s preliminary decision, the parties involved have a three-month window to request a final decision. This ruling sets the stage for a broader conversation about gender-based discriminatory practices in legal systems worldwide.
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