During the Soviet times, the common practice of abducting young girls in search of wives was forbidden and, recently in 2004, made punishable by a prison sentence.
Moreover, Georgia forbade marriage under the age of sixteen even with available parental consent.
Unfortunately, despite the laws, the practice does not subside as local authorities refrain from implementing the regulations in fear of ‘interfering with family matters’.
Therefore, Georgia remains as one of the European countries to suffer from highest rates of early marriages.
According to reports from UNICEF, a disappointing 14% of girls in Georgia marry before the age of eighteen.
Although, it is crucial to note that this misfortune occurs in Georgia’s rural areas among ethnic minorities, such as the Muslim, Chechen and Azeri communities. Women are expected to live with their parents and remain virgins until they wed. These expectations encourage young girls to marry and become pregnant soon after. However, given their young physiques, the young mothers face deadly challenges during childbirth.
Myriam Meloni, a photojournalist, visited nine teenage girls in Georgia who have been married off too young. During her visits, Meloni had to receive approval, firstly, from the in-laws followed by the husband and, only lastly, from the young wives themselves.
In her article in The New Yorker, Meloni wrote about Megi, a sixteen-year-old girl living in Batumi. Megi is an example of an unfortunate young girl married off by her family at sixteen years old. Impregnated by her husband, she was unable to deliver naturally because of her body being too small and unprepared for childbearing.
Samaia, a seventeen-year-old girl is another example of a young bride. At sixteen, she was engaged to a twenty-five-year-old man. Samaia pointed out that before her engagement, she had never spoken to the man and only saw him once. “He’s a good guy and he comes from a good family,” Samaia commented on her fiancé. Although, those are the words her family has fed her. “There’s not much you can say when you don’t know someone at all,” she added.
Tamuna’s family married her off to a man at just fifteen years old. Previously, she had dreamed of pursuing dancing as her professional career. However, following the marriage, Tamuna and her husband lived with his family, as per tradition. Her in-laws suppressed her freedom and dreams by forbidding her from dancing in the house. Three years later, Tamuna and her two children returned to her parents.
Georgian law requires children to attend school up to the twelfth grade. However, several families, mainly from minority communities, disregard the necessity with beliefs that girls’ life should solely comprise of childbearing and marriages.