Turkey backs off criminalizing adultery

Other world powers should use this as a case study on encouraging human rights.

A little less than two weeks ago, a group of Turkish lawmakers revived its push to criminalize adultery, citing the need to protect families. This push severely jeopardized Turkey’s bid to become a member of the European Union. In one of the better examples of political and economic relations influencing human rights policy, Turkey passed sweeping reforms to its penal code Sunday, forgoing any mention of criminalizing adultery.

Turkey has participated in many European institutions for quite some time but has only been a candidate for formal E.U. membership since 1999.

Turkey’s candidacy looked unlikely for the near future when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan added his support to the movement to criminalize adultery, which would have made Turkish law less compliant with the norms set forth by the European Commission, the human rights arm of the European Union.

Other world powers should use this example as a case study on encouraging human rights.

Adultery carries with it social and individual costs. But Turkey’s proposed policy is unacceptable, because, outside of incest, consensual sex between adults is not a matter for secular institutions to regulate.

In this case, the proposed law also would have undoubtedly discriminated against women, in practice if not on its face. Even still, Turkey’s reforms do little to combat “honor killings,” in which a family will murder a female member whom they decree has brought shame to it.

While Turkey has a ways to go in terms of its human rights protections, Sunday’s reforms were a good step. Turkey and the European Union can benefit from a better maximization of Turkey’s natural resources, which Turkish membership in the European Union could likely facilitate.

These new developments are a refreshing example of the desire to use said natural resources, improving the treatment of a country’s human resources.

The United States, other world powers and even the European Union should try a similar approach when dealing with other countries with international aspirations and poor human rights records.