In the former Soviet republic of Georgia, little girls can be deprived of their childhood. Irina, an office manager from Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, said that she was kidnapped when she was only nine years old. The girl got married at a very young age and had her first son when she was 15. Her second son was born when she was 19, the woman said.
A 2014 study by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) indicated that up to 17 percent of Georgian women marry before turning 18 - one of Europe's highest rates of underage marriage.
"It is a nationwide problem, albeit not homogeneous in motives," commented Maya Barkaia, a gender research fellow at Tbilisi State University's Center for Social Studies. "Poverty and lack of education, intertwined with rooted patriarchal values and religious practices are the main trigger in rural areas, while in urban areas, including in the capital, marriage is an escape from [a] difficult family situation as well as a way to legitimize a relationship."
In Georgia, a young woman must be a virgin if she wants to get married, Ekaterine Skhiladze, head of the Gender Equality Department at the Public Defender's Office said. At the same time, teens are curious about sex, and many of them marry early.
In Georgia, the minimum age for legal marriage is 18, but with parental consent, a citizen can wed as early as 16. Many of these marriages - or those with even younger brides - are held only in a church or mosque, and may not be recorded officially, noted UNFPA Assistant Representative in Georgia Lela Bakradze. Unions under the age of 16 are illegal.
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