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Georgia, Kyrgyzstan: Marriages of Minors Prohibited

(May 9, 2017) As of January 1, 2017, article 15073 of the Civil Code of Georgia, which had temporarily allowed marriages of minors, became obsolete.  (Law No. 4646 of December 16, 2016 on Amending the Civil Code of Georgia, MATSNE.GOV.GE (official publication) (in Georgian).)  The article was a transitory provision that had remained in effect during 2016.  Before that, the Civil Code had allowed minors who had reached 16 years of age to marry with the approval of their parents or custodians.  In December of 2015, the legislature had prohibited the marriage of minors of 16 years of age and, as a temporary measure, allowed 17-year-old minors to contract marriages of their own volition, but only with the approval of the court and only if there was a valid reason for marrying, such as the birth of a child.  Effective from January 1, 2017, only adults, i.e., persons who have reached 18 years of age, are legally allowed to marry.  (Id.)

The adoption of this Law was prompted by the fact that many early marriages in Georgia are performed at churches and mosques and are not registered by the government, as evidenced by the number of marriages compared to the number of births. Reportedly, there were 265 state recorded marriages between persons aged 16 to 18 in Georgia in the first half of 2015, whereas the number of births involving mothers under the age of 18 was 1,500 in 2014.  (Regina Jegorova-Askerova, Georgia Tightens Up on Early Marriage, IWPR GEORGIA (Dec. 7, 2015).)

Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan went one step further than Georgia when, in November 2016,  it amended its Family Code and Criminal Code to ban religious marriages of minors.  (Law of the Kyrgyz Republic No. 179 of Nov. 17, 2016, on Amending Legislative Acts of the Kyrgyz Republic, Kyrgyz Ministry of Justice (official webpage) (in Russian).) The newly added article 1551 of the Criminal Code allows the prosecution of violators of Kyrgyz legislation on the marriage age and prescribes punishment upon conviction of prison sentences of three to five years for any adult person who marries a minor, of the religious worker who performed the marriage ceremony with a minor, and of the parents of the marrying minor.  (Id.)

The purpose of the amendment is to outlaw religious marriages with minors and protect young girls in Muslim families who get married at a young age according to Muslim rites. Such ceremonies have become popular over the last few years, as the official state registration of marriages involving minors is prohibited by law.  The authors of the law expect that it will protect the minors’ rights to life, health, education, and development and will protect the children from physical, mental, and sexual violence.  (Kyrgyzstan Bans Religious Marriages with Minors, INTERFAX-RELIGION (Nov. 21, 2016).) It is estimated that from 7,000 to 9,000 young girls in Kyrgyzstan are married off every year before reaching adulthood.  Often these marriages take place after the girls are kidnapped and assaulted.  (In Kyrgyzstan It Was Decided to Punish Parents for Marriages of Minor Children, SEGODNYA.UA (Nov. 21, 2016) (in Russian).)

Prepared by Nerses Isajanyan, Foreign Law Consultant, under the supervision of Peter Roudik, Director of Legal Research.