Gap between the law and traditions
Early marriage, or child marriage, is defined as the marriage or unregistered union between two people in which one or both parties are younger than 18 years.
In the end of 2015 year, amendment to law on marriage age was introduced in Georgia. Legal marriage age remains 18. Before the amendments, only parent’s approval was enough for couples under 18 to create a family. According to changes, creating family in ages 16-18 is still possible; however now it happens based on court decision in cases of pregnancy or a child.
Some of experts and Children rights workers think that even though the change should affect positively, it won’t eliminate the problems connected and caused by child marriages. One part of challenge is that Georgians don’t give big importance to legal registration of the marriage. “Even in adult ages and especially, for teenagers, if girl is seen with some boy for some time it automatically means that girl got married, even if she doesn’t plan to do so”, young mother from Marneuli. Moreover, traditionally, church ceremony is absolutely enough for many young couples and their families for creating a family. No registration makes it much harder to track the statistics of such cases and protect young girls’ rights in the future.
According to amendments to the law it is forbidden to get married under 16 by any circumstances. However, statistics of previous years’ show that it is common practice. 32 % of married women from ethnic minorities created families under 18; 5% got married at ages 13-14; 16% - at ages 15-16. According to expert respondent of UNEFPA research there are many unregistered cases of such kind as they don’t consider legal procedures necessary.
Article 140 of Crime Law of Georgia says that it is forbidden to have any sexual Intercourse or Other Action of Sexual Character with One under Sixteen. However, according to data from Georgian National Statistics office, in 2012 year 26 births were given by mothers under 15, under 16 years – 114 births, at age of 16 – 425 childbirths.
“Chaining the traditional understanding of the topic is very hard, but possible. As for the law, legislative frame of Georgia in this regard is already proper to the European standards. However, real figures show that the issue still remains unsolved, which means that reaction mechanisms need to be improved through involvement of appropriate agencies, including Guardianship and Custody Division of Social Service Agency, as well as responsible executive bodies”, Lela Akiashvili, Lawyer.