Human rights activists gathered on 30 April in front of the Prosecutor’s Office in Tbilisi, to condemn the frequency of early and forced marriages in Georgia. Protesters condemned the government’s ‘sick policy’ towards forced and early marriages in Georgia, saying that the authorities are tolerant of the abuse.
The protests came after on 28 April, a man allegedly kidnapped a 17-year-old girl who was on her way to school. The kidnapping took place in Marneuli, in the southern Georgian region of Kvemo Kartli.
The man, who is 10 years older than the girl, wanted to marry her. The girl, an ethnic Azerbaijani, studies in the 12th grade in the village of Takalo.
Baia Pataraia from women’s rights organisation Sapari said on Saturday that the kidnapper had brought the girl to a police station, where she had agreed to stay with him.
‘The parents claim that if the girl wants to stay, the problem is solved. But the girl’s older sister is crying and says that she knows for sure that her sister didn’t want to stay, and she was forced to stay’, she wrote on Facebook.
An investigation has been launched for ‘illegal deprivation of liberty’, which is punishable by 2–4 years in prison.
The organisers of the protest claim that families of abducted girls usually come to an agreement with the kidnappers in such cases. The Prosecutor’s Office then doesn’t investigate, and the perpetrators go unpunished, they claim.
‘Now the damn Prosecutor’s Office and Interior Ministry will sign a plea deal and will release the abductor, and the “groom” will pay money and this will be the millionth case of an ordinary Azerbaijani girl, who was forced to stay with her abuser’, Pataraia, one of the organisers of the protest says.
Georgian Women’s Movement, which organised the rally, claims that when a kidnapping is reported, police do not attempt to search for the women. The authorities instead wait for the families involved to reach an agreement, after which a plea deal is signed. In the end, they claim, the woman is ‘practically sold’ for several thousand laris.
‘The authorities perceive bridenapping as a tradition, not as a criminal offense’, they claim, adding that the state encourages such crimes and doesn’t adequately react.
‘We did our best, but she had the final say’, one family member of the girl from Takalo told Netgazeti.
‘When she turns 18, there will be a wedding’.
Activists from Georgian Women’s Movement believe that girls are usually pressured to marry their abductors. In this case the abductor was not arrested, but was released after the girl gave testimony to the police and agreed to stay with him.
On 1 January, it became illegal to marry minors aged from 16–18 years old
According to the latest data from the Ministry of Justice, 611 underage marriages were registered in 2015, with only 17 of them underage boys. In 16 cases both the girl and boy were underage. In many cases marriages aren’t registered at all.
Public Defender’s 2016’s special report reads that in 2015 408 people left school for the reason ‘to create family’.