The Case of Serife Yigit v. Turkey

The applicant, ?erife Yi?it, is a Turkish national who was born in 1954 and lives in Gaziantep, Turkey. In 1976, she married Ömer Koç (Ö.K.) in a religious ceremony (imam nikah?). Ö.K. died on 10 September 2002. The youngest of their six children, Emine, was born in 1990. On 11 September 2003 ?erife Yi?it brought an action, in her own name and that of Emine, seeking to have her marriage with Ö.K. recognised and to have Emine entered in the civil register as his daughter. The District Court allowed the second request but rejected the request concerning the marriage. The applicant further applied to the retirement pension fund (Ba?-Kur) to have Ö.K.’s retirement pension and health-insurance benefits transferred to her and her daughter. The benefits were granted to Emine but not to her mother, on the ground that her marriage to Ö.K. had not been legally recognized. The applicant appealed unsuccessfully against that decision. Relying on Article 8 of the Convention (right to respect for family life), the applicant complained about the Turkish courts’ refusal to transfer her deceased partner’s social-security entitlements to her. In its judgment of 20 January 2009 the Chamber examining the case found that it was not unreasonable for special protection to be afforded only to civil marriages in Turkey, pointing out that marriage remained an institution widely recognized as conferring a particular status on those who entered into it. It considered that the difference in treatment between married and unmarried couples with regard to survivors’ benefits was aimed at protecting the traditional family based on the bonds of marriage and was therefore legitimate and justified. Accordingly, the Chamber held by four votes to three that there had been no violation of Article 8. On 14 September 2009 the case was referred to the Grand Chamber at the applicant’s request.




European Court of Human Rights

Avon Center work product