UNICEF AZERBAIJAN CONDEMNS CHILD MARRIAGES
BAKU, 03 December 2009 – UNICEF Azerbaijan is deeply concerned about the recent tragedy, when a 15 year old girl committed suicide on the day of her wedding, reportedly in protest to her being forced into the marriage. What should have been the happiest day was, in fact, the worst.
The 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) stipulates that any person aged below 18 is a child and so any marriage of persons below the age of 18 is defined by the UN as a child marriage. The international standards enshrined in human rights treaties and conventions perceive child marriages as a violation of human rights. When a child marriage is forced it is, of course, compounding the violation. The negative consequences of child marriages include physical risks - increased risk of serious complications during delivery by young mothers, low birth-weight of babies, and a higher chance that the newborn or mother will not survive. There are also other risks, including a negative impact on the education of young couples, especially of girls, leading to their social exclusion, discrimination and poverty.
According to a study conducted by the Azerbaijan State Committee on Family, Woman and Child Affairs, the International Centre for Social Studies and UNICEF, among 488 respondents from four regions of the country, 58% reported that child marriages take place without girls’ full consent. And girls under the age of 16 get married without any legal guarantee because their marriage is not officially registered. Nor do they have the right skills and knowledge, as well as physical ability, to create a healthy family.
Child marriages were a fairly common practice in the pre-Soviet era of Azerbaijani history. Their prevalence decreased sharply during the Soviet times, but in recent years, experts and human rights activists have raised alarm about the increasing prevalence of child marriages in Azerbaijan. UNICEF supports increasing public awareness about the negative consequences of child marriages and helps identify action to be taken by the government and civil society to eliminate this phenomenon.
In recent years, experts and human rights activists have raised alarm about the increasing prevalence of child marriages in Azerbaijan. UNICEF Azerbaijan calls to undertake all necessary steps, including preventive and legislative measures where the role of government and civil-society institutions is to develop and implement systems to prevent or discourage this practice in Azerbaijan. Government action is required to review customary and civil law and need to establish 18 as the legal age of marriage for girls, as well as boys, and ensure its implementation with support of community-based services equipped with relevant professionals including psychologists and social workers.
UNICEF stands for increasing public awareness about the negative consequences of child marriages and help identify action to be taken by the government and civil society to eliminate this phenomenon in the best interests of Azerbaijani children, particularly girls, ensuring their right to education, health and decision making about their own lives and protecting them from lapsing into poverty and abuse. Promoting birth and marriage registration would help enforce all these measures.
UNICEF Azerbaijan once more calls for increased efforts of all stakeholders to combat the child marriages in Azerbaijan as a major violation of the rights of a child.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.