UNICEF appeals Azerbaijan to return to senior age for marriage to protect children’s rights
© UNICEF Azerbaijan/E. Ibrahimova/2010
Hijran Huseynova/Head of the State Committee on Family, Women & Children’s Affairs, Mark Hereward/ UNICEF Representative and Hadi Rajabli/Head of Sustainable Committee on Social Policy at the Parliament are in the launch of Study on Early Marriages
The State Committee on Family, Women & Children’s Affairs, with support of UNICEF Azerbaijan and in cooperation with the International Centre for Social Studies (ICSS), carried out a joint study on the theme “Early marriages: violation of the human rights of children”.
UNICEF informs that a report presented following the study provides a situational analysis of the nature of child marriages in Azerbaijan.
The 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.
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.
According to UNICEF representative Mark Hereward, many interacting factors contribute to placing a child at risk of marriage.
“Poverty, protection of the chastity of girls and the promotion of stability during unstable social periods are seen to be significant factors in determining a predominantly female risk of becoming married while still a child. Ending the practice of early marriage is crucial if we are to make progress in efforts to save the health and lives of many Azerbaijani children. 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,” he said.
Deputy education minister Irada Huseynova warned that the harmful consequences of early marriages include decreased opportunities for education.
“It is necessary to draw 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.
Azerbaijani Parliament’s MP Malahat Hasanova stressed that discussion of the proposed amendments to the relevant laws should be given a priority at the spring parliamentary session.
The applicable Azerbaijani law on the minimum age for spouses stipulates that a woman should be 17, and a man 18 years of age. 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, is that the Azerbaijani legislature should reconsider the minimum age for marriage and change it to 18 years of age for both men and women.
The campaign is aimed at raising awareness of various issues, including promotion of gender equality, and encouraging positive action to instill change in the lives of Azerbaijani people, especially in the case of those who are most vulnerable.
The problem has already been raised this week at a plenary session of Milli Majlis within the framework of discussion on general issues. Hasanova indicated non-conformity of legislative regulation on age of marriage.
“The law on protection of child rights after the international convention of the same name establishes minimal age for marriage at age of 18 years old.
But the Family Code reduces it to age of 17 for young girls and Cabinet Ministers’ decisions to age of 16. It is necessary to remove this difference and bring it in conformity to the international convention,” Hasanova said. Her suggestion, however, found no support of MPs.