Azerbaijan, Baku, Feb. 16 / Trend K.Zarbaliyeva /
The increasing number of child marriages in Azerbaijan causes concern, UNICEF Baku Office Head Mark Hereward said.
"In Azerbaijan, child marriages were a fairly common practice in the pre-Soviet era," Hereward said at discussions over a report of the nature of early marriages. "Prevalence decreased sharply during the Soviet times, but in recent years, experts and social activists raised the alarm about the increasing prevalence of child marriages in Azerbaijan."
The State Committee on Family, Women and Children Affairs, with the support of UNICEF Azerbaijan and in cooperation with the International Center for Social Studies (ICSS), carried out a study which provides a situation analysis of the nature of child marriages in Azerbaijan, including its causes and consequences.
Child marriage is a violation of human rights whether it happens to a girl or a boy, but it represents perhaps the most prevalent form of sexual abuse and exploitation of girls. The harmful consequences include separation from family and friends, lack of freedom to interact with peers and participate in community activities, and decreased opportunities for education, he said.
According to him, child marriages often end in divorce, can result in enslavement, commercial sexual exploitation and violence against the victims.
Child brides are often exposed to such serious health risks as premature pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections including, increasingly, HIV/AIDS, he added. If a mother is under the age of 18, her infant's risk of dying in its first year of life is 60 percent greater than that of an infant born to an older mother.
He said that in the developing world, one third of women aged 20-24 were married or in union before the age of 18. Girls from poorer households are more likely to be married as children than girls from richer households.
"Data for different countries show that, overall, the median age at first marriage is gradually increasing. But the pace of change is slow in many countries," he said.
The Convention on the Rights of the Children 1989 defined 18 years as an admissible age for a family. Based on international standards, early marriages are a violation of human rights.
Azerbaijan ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1992.
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