Child Brides, Child Mothers

After delivery Nargiz, lying in the room of a maternity house, is full of maternal joy. She does not know yet that her baby was born dead and is choosing a name for her.

Nargiz lives in Marneuli municipality. A year ago, at the age of 15, she married Orkhan, who is ten years older than she (not their real names). Nargiz, like many other girls in her village, got married after finishing the ninth form of school.

She was taken to hospital with heavy bleeding and doctors were unable to save her baby.

Gynecologist Vazha Baramidze, who performed the caesarian section on Nargiz, said he hardly managed to save the life of the mother. The doctor said pregnancy and child-delivery at an early age is dangerous for young girls.

“Nargiz was 27 weeks pregnant and her baby had already died when Nargiz was brought to the hospital. Pregnancy is particularly difficult for girls at the age of 13-15 before the pelvis is well-developed. For that reason we often have to do caesarian sections. Three years ago a 13-year-old pregnant girl was brought here; she had her second child at 15, and third at 16. We did caesarian sections each time.”

Early marriages often result in birthing children with disabilities or child mortality.

In accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child, a person under the age of 18 is a child and marriage under 18 is classed as an early-marriage or a child-marriage. According to UN data, annually up to 14 million girls get married under the age of 18 worldwide. In 2014, 17% of women in Georgia got married under 18. Early marriages mostly happen in the Autonomous Republic of Adjara and Kvemo Kartli region, which are inhabited by religious and ethnic minorities.

Since the marriage of under-age girls is prohibited by law, ethnic Azerbaijani people living in Georgia marry underage girls with the support of a Mullah.

“When you see a 15-years-old girl wearing engagement earrings, you know that the boy’s family has already received consent from the girls’ family,” one of the Imams of Iormuganlo village said.

Zina Shahverdieva, 70, recalled that she was engaged at the age of 15. “Two years later we had a wedding. At that time parents’ word was law for children and early-marriage was a tradition. Nobody wanted to marry a girl older than 18. Men prefer to marry young girls: they do not know much about life and it is easier to govern them.”

Official information states that 341 girls left school for the purpose of marriage in Marneuli municipality in the past 5 years.

Jabrail Mirzaev, who received a religious education in Turkey and then returned to Georgia, said that he, along with a number of other Imams in Georgia, does not give permission for early marriages. However, he said it had yet to have a positive impact. “In the face of our refusal, they find mullahs to bless them in marriage.”

In the Civil Code, the minimum age for marriage in Georgia is 18. Before December 2015, girls aged 16-18 could get married with permission from their parents. On the initiative of the Ombudsman of Georgia, the law was amended and now 16-18 years old girls must get permission from the court as well as from their parents to get married.

The single school in the village of Mskhaldidi, which is inhabited by ethnic Azerbaijani people, only operates to grade nine. Kheyala, 15 (false name), said her parents do not want her to continue education in the school of the neighboring village. “We don’t have a doctor in the village and I wanted to study well and become one, but to do that I have to finish public school and then go to University. I know my parents won’t let me do it. I expect they’ll arrange a marriage for me once I finish ninth form.”

In accordance with Article 150 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, a person who supports underage marriage is punishable by community labor for 200-400 hours. Head of the gender equality department at the Ombudsman’s Office, Ekaterine Skhiladze, said that Article 140 of the CCG states that sexual intercourse or other acts of a sexual nature with a person under 16 is punishable by imprisonment for up to 7-9 years. “Not long ago a person was imprisoned who had married an under-age girl. Now they have a child, but the marriage took place when the girl was under 16. Their marriage can be registered under law but sexual intercourse with a 15-years-old girl is not permitted,” Skhiladze said.

The Marneuli district police unit refused to give us statistical data related to the kidnapping of under-age girls for the purpose of marriage.

Chairperson of the organization ‘Azerbaijani Women,’ Leyla Suleymanova, said that the stricter law has already had a positive effect. “Restriction of parents’ rights to give permission for underage marriages has reduced the number of marriages. The number of kidnapping of girls has significantly reduced in the past years but it is also important to raise public awareness about this issue.”

Expert of the Civic Development Institute, Tamar Mosiashvili, said educational activities would be most effective with both girls and their parents.

“A director of one of the local public schools in Marneuli district gave a lecture about the health problems that may be caused by early marriages and invited experts to speak about it,” Mosiashvili said. “After a while, a parent approached the director and told him that they had postponed the marriage of their engaged daughter – the lecture helped to hinder at least one early marriage and make an immediate impact.”

Nargiz already lives with the life her parents have chosen for her. She is married and, despite her young age, has already endured the tragedy of a child-death. Her friend Kheyala still dreams of becoming a doctor– but it is up to her parents to decide whether she will wear a white wedding gown or to let her dreams come true and allow her to go university.

The publication was prepared in the frame of a project implemented by the Human Rights House Tbilisi with financial support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Tbilisi. Human Rights House Tbilisi is responsible for the content of the article and the views within do not necessarily reflect those of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.


Leyla Mustapaeva

26 February 2016 11:49