Istanbul: A billboard advertisement at Istanbul’s international airport accused Sweden of having “the highest rape rate worldwide”, state media reported on Friday just days after Stockholm accused Ankara of legalising sex with children.
Printed in English and Turkish, and displayed at the departures section of Ataturk airport, the huge banner ad reads: “Travel Warning! Did you know that Sweden has the highest rape rate worldwide?” Anadolu news agency reported alongside a picture of the ad.
Alongside it was an enlarged copy of the front page of Gunes, a pro-government newspaper, with a headline saying: “Sweden, a country of rape.”
Anadolu said billboard advertisements at the airport were operated by a private company.
The advert was largely seen as a tit-for-tat move after Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom caused a storm when she tweeted: “Turkish decision to allow sex with children under 15 must be reversed”, following a controversial ruling by the Turkish constitutional court.
Her Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, blasted her remark as “unacceptable”, saying Wallstrom should have acted “responsibly”.
Turkey’s constitutional court in July annulled a criminal code provision punishing as “sexual abuse” all sexual acts involving children under the age of 15, responding to a petition brought by a lower court.
The top court has given parliament a six-month period to draw up new rules based on its ruling.
The lower court that brought the petition was worried there was no distinction between cases of sexual acts involving a young teenager or a toddler.
The legal age of consent in Turkey remains 18 and was not affected by the ruling. But it sparked outrage among activists worried it would open the way for unpunished child sexual abuse.