“News reports of a spate of underage pregnancies in Turkey have sparked anger online.
One hundred and fifteen girls, including 39 from Syria, have been treated at a single hospital in Istanbul in less than five months.
News website Hurriyet Daily reported 38 girls became pregnant before the age of 15, and 77 before turning 18.
The age of consent is 18 in Turkey and all cases of pregnancy under the age of 15 are classified as child abuse.
A hashtag, which translates as ‘You can’t cover up the abuse of 115 children’, has been used more than 47,000 times since Wednesday.
Many are sharing a photograph allegedly showing a redacted list detailing the ages of some of those admitted.
Most social media users expressed their sadness so many young girls had been the victim of abuse.
“Let’s all please live in a world where children are just children,” pleaded one response.
The story has also reignited wider debates about sexual abuse and women’s rights.
Referring to previous assertions that women should not laugh in the street and should dress modestly, one user suggested the focus should shift away from women’s behaviour and onto their protection.
“Instead of meddling in the laughter and the clothes of underage girls, learn to protect them,” read the tweet which was shared and liked more than 3,700 times.
One twitter user attempted to highlight the wider issues faced by Syrian girls in the country.
“Apparently many of the children were Syrians,” she wrote. “I know from where I work that even when we inform the police about 15 year old girls who have given birth, all they do is take statements and leave. The law does not apply to them.”
Turkey has received millions of refugees from neighbouring Syria since the outbreak of war forced many to flee.
Much of the debate online followed established schisms in Turkish societybetween conservative religious groups and the secular.
One user posted photos of women’s rights marches in the country, and blamed the secular opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) for encouraging immorality.
“You fill the minds of your girls with immoralities, and then you blame the government. The left-minded and #CHP, this is your doing.”
“An Istanbul hospital that treated 115 pregnant underage girls, including 39 Syrian nationals, between Jan. 1 and May 9 last year, failed to notify the authorities, which is a legal requirement for treating pregnant girls younger than 18 years-old.
The situation came to light when a hospital social worker and psychologist notified the Küçükçekmece Prosecutor’s Office.
According to records at the Kanuni Sultan Süleyman Training and Research Hospital in the Küçükçekmece district of Istanbul, of the 115 girls, 77 became pregnant between the ages of 15 and 18, while the remaining 38 got pregnant before the age of 15.
According to previous regulations enforced by the Health Ministry, the police should be notified in cases where the pregnant girl is younger than 18, while cases involving children below 15 automatically qualify as “sexual abuse.”
The Küçükçekmece Prosecutor’s Office had demanded an investigation into a doctor and hospital employee implicated in the incident, but the Istanbul Governor’s Office, in a letter dated Dec. 4, 2017, refused permission. The governor’s office said the hospital records showed that the two hospital personnel had not “neglected their duty.”
The lawyer Erkan Akça has made an appeal to the Istanbul Regional Administrative Hospital to nullify the decision made by the Governor’s Office. “The institution that should investigate the neglect of duty is the prosecutor’s office. The refusal of the governor’s office to allow an investigation is against the law,” Akça said in his appeal dated Jan. 2.
Meanwhile, an investigation has been launched into the anonymous hospital social worker who notified the incident to the authorities and who has subsequently been re-assigned to other places of work twice.”