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Study on Early Marriages in Azerbaijan Launched in the Context of Child Rights Protection PDF Print E-mail
Baku, February 16, 2010 - A joint Baku, study on “Early marriages: violation of the human rights of children,” was launched by UNICEF and the State Committee for Family, Women and Children’s Affairs of Azerbaijan on 16 February 2010. This report presents a qualitative assessment of the early marriage situation in Azerbaijan showing an increasing trend in some of the regions of the country where early marriage has been affecting some boys and, in most cases, many young girls.

In
Azerbaijan, child marriages were a fairly common practice in the pre-Soviet era. Prevalence decreased sharply during the Soviet times, but in recent years, experts and social activists have raised the alarm about the increasing prevalence of this practice in the country. However, concrete data to support that assertion, and to understand it, was scarce, the Report says. Therefore the State Committee on Family, Women and Children’s Affairs, with support of UNICEF Azerbaijan and in cooperation with the International Centre for Social Studies (ICSS), carried out the study which provides a situational analysis of the nature of child marriages in Azerbaijan. The assessment also examines the most common reasons for this harmful practice and shows the serious consequences of early marriage on the entire life of young people.

While introducing the report, UNICEF Representative Mr. Mark Hereward said that many factors interact to place a child at risk of marriage. Poverty, protection of the chastity of girls and the provision of stability during unstable social periods are seen to be significant factors in determining a (mostly) girls risk of becoming married while still a child.

He also emphasized that ending the practice of early marriage is crucial “if we are to make progress in efforts not only to reach UN Millennium Development Goals but most importantly to save the health and lives of many Azerbaijani children.” Mr. Hereward also underlined:” We must work to change attitudes in families and in society at large, extend opportunities for childhood learning and education and offer appropriate support to families and children…Our intention is to raise awareness of the situation and, where necessary, to stimulate positive actions for change of the lives of Azerbaijani children.”

Ms. Hijran Huseynova, Chairperson of the State Committee for Family, Women and Children’s Affairs, emphasized the importance of the report by saying, that the researchers in the report have adopted a cross-regional and multi-methodological pattern, applying qualitative approaches such as focus groups, semi-structured interviews with key informants and in-depth interviews with persons who entered into early marriages or parents of the affected children.

Participants at the event were also reminded that international standards define child marriages as a violation of human rights whether it happens to a girl or a boy, but it represents perhaps the most prevalent form of sexual abuse and exploitation of girls. The Azerbaijani applicable law on the minimum age for spouses stipulates that a woman should be 17, and a man 18 years old. In addition, under special circumstances and with the consent of the parties and their families, the age limit can be lowered to 16 and 17 for girls and boys respectively. Thus, the recommendation of the study, which was overwhelming supported by the participants, that the Azerbaijani legislature should reconsider the minimum age for marriage and change it to 18 years for both men and women.

The harmful consequences of early marriages include decreased opportunities for education, the Deputy Minister of Education Ms. Irada Huseynova warned. She also drew attention to the increasing number of girls’ dropping out from secondary schools as a result of early marriages. “We have to focus on those parents who deprive their daughters from education at higher classes and force them to marry at an early age,” she said.

Members of the Azerbaijani Parliament Ms. Malahat Hasanova and Ms. Ganira Pashayeva stressed that discussion of the proposed amendments to the relevant laws should be given a priority at the spring parliamentary session, emphasizing that the value of increasing social and media pressure on the people forcing their children to early marriages should not be underestimated. “We must make the people understand that this is not solely a problem of the governmental institutions but a problem of all society”, said MP. Ms Hasanova.

Pointing out the alarming increase in child marriages, representatives of several UN agencies operating in
Azerbaijan, governmental officials and representatives of non-governmental organizations agreed that strong follow-up actions should be taken to prevent child marriages in the country. According to the study, the problem of early marriage derives from the paternalistic model of the family and male dominated society that feeds aspirations for a subservient wife. Therefore, there is a need for a wider debate on various aspects of this phenomenon that will put into spotlight the importance of education for girls, gender equality and partnership in marriage through an intensified awareness campaign and series of educational sessions throughout the country.

For the Baku-based office of the UN Department of Public Information this will be a continuation of the previous practice of outreaching the most vulnerable groups of population particularly in rural areas, within the UN Millennium Development Goals advocacy campaign aiming at encouraging positive actions for change in the lives of Azerbaijani people.

 
 

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