Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has signed a bill into law which grants religious figures the authority to carry out and legally register Islamic marriages.
The Muslim marriage bill was signed earlier this month when it was passed by the Turkish parliament.
Until this new law was passed, there was a legal contradiction in the secular Turkish law whereby couples were allowed to live together and have children without any marriage ceremony, but it was illegal for observing Muslims to conduct an Islamic marriage (nikah) and opt-out of a civil marriage.
The previous law— one of the many draconian secular laws from the days of Kemal Ataturk — could be used to sentence imams and married couples to two-to-six months in prison.
The origin of this legislation dates back to 1926 when Shariah law in Turkey was abolished after the destruction of the Ottoman Caliphate and was replaced by the Swiss Civil Code—conforming to Catholic Church law.
The Turkish public continued to carry out Islamic marriages without the presence of a municipal officer, though doing so was a punishable offence.
This law does not change the existing Turkish Civil Code that requires married couples to be at least 18-years-old, but can be reduced to 17-years-old with parental consent or a court decision.
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In essence, this new law adds government appointed imams to the list of officials authorised to register marriages.
Until Thursday 2 November 2017, the Turkish Civil Code only authorised municipal officers, village chiefs and foreign missions to officiate marriages.