Child marriage in Eastern Europe and Central Asia: Regional overview

Resource Date: 2013
Author: UNFPA

This report provides a brief overview of child marriage in the following countries and territories: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo (UNSCR 1244), the Kyrgyz Republic, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. It accompanies a set of fact sheets and executive summaries that provide more detailed information on the issue in each country. These country fact sheets are designed to provide a ‘snapshot’ of child marriage in this region, and are based on small-scale, rapid qualitative research carried out in two to three districts in each country or territory. Researchers carried out semi-structured interviews with girls and women (and some men) who married before the age of 18, as well as with national and local state officials, experts in women’s and children’s rights from the NGO sector, and professionals working in health and education. In some countries, focus groups were also held, in communities where child marriage is practiced.

Early or child marriage is the union, whether official or not, of two persons, at least one of whom is under 18 years of age. By virtue of their age, child spouses are considered to be incapable of giving full consent, meaning that child marriages should be considered a violation of human rights and the rights of the child. Child marriage is a gendered phenomenon that affects girls and boys in different ways. Overall, the number of boys in child marriages around the world is significantly lower than that of girls, and married girls are vulnerable to other forms of gender-based violence and discrimination within marriage. They also often experience complications during pregnancy and childbirth, as their bodies are not ready for childbearing. The right of girls to be protected from child marriage is upheld in various international instruments, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), both of which call for countries to legislate a minimum marriage age of 18. But despite this legal protection, each year, thousands of girls are married before their 18th birthday.