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Two extracts from the secular daily Milliyet 7 September, 2004. Translated from Turkish by Tim Drayton

In an overhaul of the Turkish Penal Code it is proposed to criminalise adultery. In the first extract, one member of the sub-commission preparing the draft is reported to have his doubts on this particular matter. In the second extract, the columnist, Güneri Cıvaoğlu, assesses the impact that criminalising adultery will have on Turkey’s EU membership negotiations.


In the words of Dr. Adem Sözüer, a member of the sub-commission preparing the Turkish Penal Code draft, “Sitting and having dinner could be enough for a jealous spouse to report a case of adultery.”

Günseli Önal - Anakara

Istanbul University lecturer Dr. Adem Sözüer, a member of the Turkish National Assembly Judicial Sub-Commission preparing the Turkish Penal Code draft, has said that making adultery illegal runs counter to the philosophy of the draft. Sözüer stresses that penalising adultery, far from having the effect of preserving the family, will help to break it up.

Noting that the draft has been prepared so as to prevent the State from interfering in the sphere of an individual’s personal freedom, Sözüer said, “According to the draft, the State will not use penal law as a means of interfering in the way people dress or think and their sexual preferences. To introduce a control mechanism in exception to this runs counter to the philosophy of the draft.”

Saying that for the State to use adultery as an excuse to control people’s private lives bears no relation to preserving family unity, Sözüer commented, “Parents who are unable to pay money to schools are made to do cleaning work at the school. Let the State find a solution for this. If a problem arises, provide support for couples to go and get help from psychiatrists and marriage counsellors.” Sözüer continued, “Not only sexual relations, sitting and having dinner could be enough for a jealous spouse to say, ‘They were together that evening’ and report them for adultery. Does a police raid based on the accusation of having dinner together strengthen or weaken the family? If adultery is made a crime, marriages that can be saved will also be damaged.”

The following wording is included in the draft: Adultery shall constitute a crime on being reported and a period of six months shall be allowed for its reporting. In the case of separation, either as a result of a judgment or by the mutual consent of the couple, adultery shall not constitute a crime. The crime shall be punished by imprisonment for a period of six months to three years or only two years. Unmarried persons entering into sexual relations with married persons shall also be penalised.


Vetoing adultery

by Güneri Cıvaoğlu

If the AK Party insists on an “adultery article”, all hope rests on the possibility of the law as it is passed being vetoed - in part - by the President.

If the AK Party then, satisfied that it has curried favour with its supporters, does not force it through a second time, but leaves it to cool down like the Higher Education Law. This is also a solution.

For the debate about adultery has provided a “surprise opportunity” for those wanting to put the skids on Turkey’s hopes of getting a date from the EU.

I am given to understand from Brussels that the Greek Cypriot lobby is even saying, “You see why we said NO to uniting with the Turks in the referendum.”

Among Turkey’s opponents one increasingly hears the comment that, “Turkey is not mature enough for membership. It is incapable of harmonising with European culture. We therefore argue that Turkey cannot become European”. Criminalising adultery is presented as “penalising flirting, compulsory virginity, a backward step for women's rights.”

Why upset the apple cart for nothing?

Let's not exaggerate

Well, will this article criminalising adultery negatively effect the EU decision?

This claim - for the time being - is exaggerated.

Those in the upper echelons of the EU are aware that the AK Party government has also overcome many difficult obstacles to achieve EU harmonisation. For example:

    Reducing the influence of the military in State administration, Kurdish education and broadcasting, and similar measures.

The AK Party, with its signature to this transformation that would have been unthinkable a few years earlier, is not going to be erased from the copybook just because of the article criminalising adultery.

However, adultery may appear in Turkey’s October report as a major minus.

Of course all this is assuming that, even if the article passes through parliament, it is not vetoed by President Sezer along with a few other “EU-incompatible” articles that have been introduced into the Turkish Penal Code.

And such a “partial veto” is a hope/possibility being whispered to EU summits by our diplomats.

The road continues

As far as being given a date by the EU is concerned, we can say, “It is clear from Verheugen’s arrival in September that there will be an October report. December’s decision will be made clear in the October report.”

Consequently, the December full membership negotiation date is in sight. The light at the end of a 56-year tunnel.

It seems following Verheugen’s visit to Turkey that the final doubts have been dispelled. Of course positive signs have been visible on the horizon prior to these months.

On the other hand, having so much time before us makes this a convenient period for us to pave the road.

On this point, who would have dreamed just a few months ago at a time when EU harmonisation amendments were being made to the Turkish Penal Code that among them would be a provision such as that to criminalise adultery.

The AK Party may well yet again trip itself and Turkey up.

Those waiting in ambush abroad, not least the Armenian lobby, may set off the mines they have placed on the road.

If nothing else, Turkey should avoid providing them with any ammunition.

Pre and post

Nevertheless, it is apparent from the statements of persons authorised to speak on behalf of the EU that the October report and the December decision on a date “should and will be without preconditions.”

The problem here is not giving Turkey a date; it is explaining to European public opinion that a process has started leading to Turkey’s full membership and to get European societies to accept this. For this reason, the December announcement granting a date and the October report that will serve as the basis for this announcement will not impose “preconditions”, but this does not mean that it won’t impose “post-conditions”.

In other words, the announcement granting a date for full membership negotiations will contain a whole host of “buts”. The number of these “buts” will create an “uncertainty factor” for Turkey concerning its future. And Ankara needs to avoid tripping itself up if it wants to reduce this factor.

Archive of Turkish press translations by Tim Drayton