Girls as young as nine and boys as young as 12 can marry under Islamic law, Turkey's highest religious body suggested, causing major backlash in the country.
Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs – or Diyanet – which manages the country's religious institutions and education, posted an online glossary of Islamic terms that said anyone who had reached adolescence has the right to marry, according to The Independent.
The organization elsewhere defined the start of adolescence for girls as nine and for boys as 12.
Despite the Diyanet's recent posting, Turkey legally requires individuals – male and female – to be 18 years of age to marry, and the same goes for 17 year-olds with a legal guardian or parent's permission. In extraordinary circumstance, 16-year-olds are also allowed to marry with court approval, according to BBC.
After significant backlash, the problematic statement has been removed by the religious authority.
“Forget a nine or a 10 year old child marrying, a child at 15 should not marry and should not be married,” Ekrem Keles, head of Turkey's High Commission of Religious Affairs, said, according to Arab News.
Many in Turkey took particular issue with the post itself, as child marriages are not uncommon in the country despite their illegality.
Women’s rights groups strongly condemned the post, telling the Diyanet to “get their hands off our children.”
However, the Diyanet clarified, after removing the post, that it never intended to encourage child marriage.
The government body said it “never and will never approve early marriages."
“Forcing girls to marry before psychological and biological maturity, and before they obtain the responsibility to become a mother and form a family is not compatible with Islam which says will and consent are conditions for marriage,” it said.
In 2016, the Turkish Prime Minister said there were some 3,800 known cases of child marriage in the country.
"Early marriages violate children's rights, women's rights, human rights. As CHP MPs we ask parliament to investigate child marriages," opposition Republican People's Party MP Murat Bakan said, following the Diyanet's post.