Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim knocked back criticism of opposition MPs after a bill to postpone the sentencing of men convicted of child abuse if the act was committed without force, threat, or any other restriction on consent was brought before parliament.
"There are children who are married at an early age. They [the families] do not know the law. Their children have to go to jail. A couple [who marry underage] might have their own children but the father has to go to jail and the children are left alone," Yildirim told reporters in Ankara on Friday, adding that the measure aims to "get rid of this injustice."
"This is not an amnesty for rape. Our government has introduced the most serious punishments for rape. If there are such marriages [forced after rape], they will not be tolerated in any way," Yildirim said.
He said the law will only apply to offences committed before November 11, 2016.
Yildirim said claims that the law would practically legalise rape were "completely false," noting that the government had raised penalties for the crime, accusing the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) of exploiting the issue for political gain.
He, however, said that the government would hold consultations with the opposition parties over the bill.
Ozgur Ozel, an MP for the CHP, said, "The AKP is pushing through a text which pardons those who marry the child that they raped."
However, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag denied the bill had anything to do with legitimising rape, saying critics were deliberately "distorting" the issue.
He said marriages involving minors were "unfortunately a reality" in Turkey but the men involved "were not rapists or sexual aggressors." He also said the measure would affect some 3,000 families.
The measure was approved in an initial parliamentary reading on Thursday and will be voted on again in a second debate in the coming days.