More than one thousand Georgian teenagers have married in the last two years, according to new government figures.
Child marriage remains widespread in the Republic of Georgia, which lies in the Caucacus mountain region between eastern Europe and western Asia. In a recent report, the Public Defender’s Office reported a total of 1276 teenagers who had married in the country since 2014. Of those, no less than 95 per cent were girls, and the majority of those were married to older men.
Many of the affected youngsters drop out of school, some before completing even the most basic level of education. However, the practice has also come under increasing scrutiny and criminal prosecutions increased by no less than 74 per cent in 2015.
Child marriage is especially prevalent in majority Muslim areas and rural regions, the report notes, where many families do not realise it is illegal.
“Teachers and principals did not have information that they should have registered the causes of school drop out by students and should have made relevant notifications. However, the majority of them noted that almost none of the girls graduate school in their villages exactly due to early marriage.”
More than 1400 Georgian teenagers became pregnant over the same period.
School dropouts are encouraged by some teachers, who believe teenagers should not attend school while pregnant.
A teacher from the town of Sacarejo blamed the internet for the issue.
“I think that the Internet and freedom brought all this. I am a teacher and I lose one girl each year. Too much freedom is given to 14-16-year-old girls. I think everything was different 20 years ago.”
The report’s title translates as Early Age Marriages: Challenges and Solutions.
Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was an ethnic Georgian, born Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili in the eastern city of Gori in 1878.