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Amplifying the Voices of Survivors of Child Marriage in Georgia

Though many in Georgia may consider child marriage to be a thing of the past, a 2018 UNICEF report found that among women in Georgia aged 20-24, 14% were married by the age of 18.

The law in Georgia states that marriage is not allowed under the age of 18 under any circumstances. Families circumvent this by not officially registering a marriage involving a minor. Engagement parties and wedding celebrations are sometimes held, and once a couple lives together, they are viewed by their community as culturally married and are referred to as husband and wife.

Bride kidnapping as a form of forced marriage remains a problem in Georgia, despite the practice decreasing since the 1990s. In 2020 for example, the Ministry of Interior of Georgia registered 43 cases of bride kidnappings.

Child marriage in its essence constitutes a forced marriage. Rooted in patriarchal values and gender inequality, child and forced marriage are serious human rights violations which increase the risk of other abuses including domestic and sexual violence, and early and unwanted pregnancy. It also hinders girls from accessing education.

Discussing these issues in public is still considered taboo in Georgia, where victim-blaming is widespread, and this makes it difficult for survivors to seek help or speak out about their experiences.

As a consequence, there is a lack of public understanding about how child marriage is harmful and the problem is not being treated as a priority by the government or law enforcement officials.

Breaking the culture of silence 

In 2020, together with Goga Khatiashvili, we released Courage: Survivors of child marriage in Georgia share their stories, aimed at addressing the culture of silence around child and forced marriage in Georgia. 

The publication tells the stories of seven women and girls, victims of violence, who were forced to marry. Some were able to escape before marriage, and all have now gained their freedom.

Goga Khatiashvili played an instrumental role in aiding women and girls fleeing abusive situations when he worked at the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia. Goga was the former Head of the Human Rights Protection Unit and helped uncover and compile the stories that are now being bravely shared by the women featured in this new publication.

“By sharing these stories, I want to reach out to girls across Georgia who might be facing child marriage to let them know they are not alone and that they have rights. Child marriage is against the law, and there are people with a responsibility to protect them.” – Goga Khatiashvili

The publication calls on the Georgian government to tackle child marriage, including by:

  • targeting the root causes of child and forced marriage through strengthening educational, health care, social and other support services and improving coordination among these bodies;
  • training teachers, medical professionals, and social workers to recognize, address and report any discrimination or abuse against girls;
  • improving legal frameworks and develop strong implementation mechanisms to protect women and girls from abuse – including for early and forced marriage, sexual violence, domestic violence (including physical, sexual, psychological, and economic violence and neglect);
  • training law enforcement, judiciary, and lawyers to take survivors seriously and work sensitively with them to get justice;
  • ensuring there are prevention and support systems in place, including properly funded shelters, to assist women and children survivors of sexual and domestic abuse;
  • educating children and communities about women’s rights and equality for all people.

“This is not about goodwill. It is a legal obligation and Georgia is bound by international law to combat harmful practices such as child and forced marriage.”

Tamar Dekanosidze, Equality Now

This publication has been widely covered by local media and has become a part of both Government and civil society campaigns against child marriage. It remains a reference point for experts in combatting child marriage in Georgia.

Explore Courage: Survivors of child marriage in Georgia share their stories