Activists Criticize Police Delays in Teen Bride Kidnapping Investigation

Georgian Women’s Movement, a group of human rights and gender equality activists, gathered in front of the Government administration yesterday, accusing the law enforcement bodies of “closing their eyes” on teen bride kidnapping in Georgia.

The protest came four days after a 17-year-old ethnic Azerbaijani girl was reportedly forcefully abducted from her house in village Lambalo in Kakheti, region in eastern Georgia. The Women’s Movement claims police knows the identity of the offender, but takes no action so far.

In its statement on October 16, Interior Ministry announced that investigation is underway under the article 143 of the Georgian Criminal Code that refers to a premeditated unlawful imprisonment of a minor. However, the Women’s Movement claims police is delaying the process, hoping the families would settle the matter.

Baia Pataraia, a gender-rights activist, stresses that the state does not have a clear policy against early and forced marriages, while the police attitude is “liberal and loyal” towards the offenders. Pataraia says this posture amounts to “ethnic and gender-based discrimination,” since many, but by no means all, bride kidnappings tend to happen in areas populated by Georgia’s ethnic minorities.

According to Women’s Movement, “abduction of young girls for marriage is a common practice among the ethnic minorities living in Georgia … Police hardly ever find the kidnappers, who – in most cases – hide in the nearby villages with their relatives.”

The Interior Ministry’s press office told today that there are no updates to report in the mentioned case.

Only those who are above 18 are allowed to get married in Georgia, according to the country’s Civil Code, whereas “sexual intercourse or any other act of sexual nature with a person who has not attained the age of 16 years” considers imprisonment for a term of seven to nine years.

In 2017, 386 boys (458 in 2016) and 2213 girls (2545 in 2016) were reported as married between 16-19, according to the State Statistics Office, Geostat. Based on the Public Defender’s special report on early marriage, 408 students aged 13-17 left schools in 2015 because of marriage, whereas 168 dropped out at the age of 18.

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