Azerbaijan: Number of Young Brides Growing

While Azerbaijani law requires that a woman be at least seventeen to marry, law enforcement and human rights workers have noticed an increase in the number of illegal underage marriages, with some girls as young as twelve becoming brides. Poverty is cited as one cause of the growing trend of underage marriages. A widow whose thirteen-year-old daughter’s wedding was stopped by police said she agreed to let her daughter marry a man in his 30s because he could provide a “secure future” for the girl and no dowry was required.

NGO workers report that because underage marriages are illegal, the unofficial ceremonies creating the unions offer no protection to young girls who are at risk of neglect, abuse, or even being sold into sexual slavery. Trafficking is growing in Azerbaijan, and many women and children are sold into sexual slavery in Turkey, Russia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates. Even those who do not fall victim to crime are unprepared to become wives and mothers at such a young age. Schools have noticed that some girls leave school as early as fourth grade because grooms, often much older than their future wives, seek brides with less education, believing these girls will be less likely to rebel against a life as a wife and mother.

Compiled from: "In Azerbaijan, Brides Too Young To Marry Are Marrying Anyway",Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, (30 May 2011).