A 20-year-old girl abducted for marriage has been returned to her parents’ house.
The girl was abducted from the courtyard of her house in a village in Bolnisi Municipality, in Georgia’s southern Kvemo Kartli Region, on 10 January.
An investigation has been launched for ‘illegal deprivation of liberty’, which is punishable by up to four years in prison.
The alleged abductor has been identified, according to local community radio station Radio Marneuli, which covers Kvemo Kartli region in Georgian, Azerbaijani, and Russian.
On 11 January, after the girl was brought home by her family, relatives of the alleged kidnapper visited her house asking her parents to withdraw a police complaint against him, and offered that the two marry to ‘settle the problem’, Radio Marneuli reported.
They claim to have witnessed a verbal and physical dispute between two families, as a result of which the girl, who witnessed the dispute, fainted.
After police were called, they explained to the abductor’s relatives that their suggestions to withdraw the complaint was illegal, and urged them to leave.
Bride kidnapping in Georgia, along with widespread practices of early marriages, have come under harsh criticism from women’s rights groups in the country.
[Read a voice from Adjara about marriage by abduction on OC Media: ‘No one asked why I was crying’]
Up until 2015, although the minimum legal age for marriage was 18, couples were able to marry at 16 with their parents’ consent. Changes in 2015 restricted this to cases where a girl was pregnant or had a child, and since January 2017 underage marriage has been outlawed entirely.
According to a May 2017 report from Georgia’s Public Defender, early marriages are still a major issue women in Georgia face. It said that in 2015, when underage marriage was not entirely outlawed, the number of such marriages was 611, while in 2016 this had decreased to just 5.
[Read more on OC Media: Child marriage continues unabated in Georgia’s Azerbaijani communities]
However, the report claimed that despite the sharply-reduced number of officially registered marriages, ‘implementation of a response to actual cohabitation remains a problem to be addressed’, and that the number of under-18 engagements has increased.