Child marriages in Azerbaijan

In this article the author analyzes the evolution of marriages among young people through a comparative analysis of marriages made in the Soviet period, and at the present stage. Azerbaijan is one of the developing countries located on the shore of Caspian Sea and surrounded by the countries of Iran, Russia, Turkey, and Georgia. Throughout its history, Azerbaijan was under occupation of some of these countries, assimilating to the culture and traditions of these countries and struggling to keep its customs at the same time. 

Azerbaijan is one of the developing countries located on the shore of Caspian Sea and surrounded by the countries of Iran, Russia, Turkey, and Georgia. Throughout its history, Azerbaijan was under occupation of some of these countries, assimilating to the culture and traditions of these countries and struggling to keep its customs at the same time. In 1991, Azerbaijan gained its independence from the Russian Federation, following the collapse of the Soviet Union (USSR). During the Soviet regime, religion and traditional customs were practiced secretly, and they became a vital right after the fall of the regime. There are a lot of religions in Azerbaijan, and the main one is Islam and 80% of the whole population (8.5 million) practice Islam in Azerbaijan, which people extremely confuse with old traditions and customs, which contributes much to child marriage, one of the major issues that the female population faces in rural areas of Azerbaijan. Government officials have focused so much on oil and gas that they have totally forgotten the fate of the young girls who are undergoing forced marriages. What is child marriage? According to Hervish and Heldman-Jacobs, child marriage is generally defined as marriage before age 18 [1].

A study released in April 2011 by the State Statistics Committee surveyed 19,711 women from 20 regions of Azerbaijan, and 37 percent acknowledged that they had married before the age of 18; 29 % when they were between the ages of 18 and 19. Only 9% of the women surveyed got married at or after the age of 25 [2].

This problem affects the whole population: families, and mainly young girls and children. UNICEF Azerbaijan presents a qualitative assessment of the early marriage situation in Azerbaijan showing an increasing trend in some of the regions of the country where early marriage has been affecting many young girls [3].

This problem impacts child death, as well. The rating of the death of the children born from girls about 14-19 years old is very high – about 50 percent. Though the Azerbaijani Parliament increased the marriage age of girls from 17 to 18, it did not change anything [4]. Early marriages are at a high rating in Azerbaijan today. If the number of the early marriages was 2,000 (two thousands) in 1960, it was more than 5,500 (five thousand five hundred) in 2008 (State Statistic Committee of Azerbaijan Republic). The girls are getting married at 14, 15 and 16 in regions of Azerbaijan today, and it is a big problem that early marriages are getting so ―normalized‖ today. Although persons younger than 18 years are considered children and their marriage is violation of child rights, the number of these marriages increases day by day in Azerbaijan [5]. Nevertheless, UNICEF Azerbaijan asks everybody in Azerbaijan to help to stop the early marriages and in order to prevent the implementation of preventative and legislative measures in its statement, there is no decrease in early marriages, but it increased in 2011 more than all other years.

The assessment also examines the most common reasons for this harmful practice and shows the serious consequences of early marriage on the entire life of young people. According to UNFPA Azerbaijan, the child marriages increased about 70 % in 2010 to compare it with 2000. Early marriages were the big problem of south part of Azerbaijan, more precisely, Lenkeran, Astara, Masalli, Yardimli and Lerik districts. But now it is the problem of all Azerbaijan.

One of the important reasons of early marriages is uneducated families. Therefore, I hope to increase awareness for girls and for their families. Educated families try to give best education to their children and never force them to marry in their early years while uneducated families never want their children to study and become ―aware of the world‖ but instead force them to marry.

According to Ibrahimova [4], child marriages were a quite common practice in the preSoviet era in Azerbaijan. Prevalence decreased sharply during the Soviet times, but in recent years, experts and social activists have raised the alarm about the increasing prevalence of that in the country. However, concrete data to support that assertion, and to understand it, was scarce as there is no research in the country about this issue. Besides, the related government officials hide this information as they do not register early marriages.

In general, over republic 2030 girls had avoided the secondary school in 2005-2006 academic years. Interestingly, 72 percent the parents involved in the survey conducted by government and non-governmental organizations thought that was normal.

The marriage of 14-16 years old is not correct girls at a medical point of view, too. It is dangerous to be a pregnant and mother in these ages. If they become pregnant and give birth in these ages there could be a mother or child deaths, which is totally possible, because of physiology of girls are formalized after 18 years old.

Besides, the children born from these mothers in majority of cases are ill, weak and have less weight. According to statistics, the past few years, the death of the children brought to the world from the mothers aged 15-19 increased by 50 percent [6].

The government officials ignore the fact of early marriages. However, we can see the children born from adolescence mothers (15-17 years old) in the website of State Statistics Committee which is increasing year by year. If the number of children born in 1995 were 2,198 they were 1,864 in 2000, little decreased. But it is increased again in 2005 to 2,743 people and at last in 2010 about 4,103. 2,463 children were born in the villages people were not aware of everything, however 1,463 of these children were born in cities where parents more aware about early marriages [7].

The other important reason which contributes to child marriages is poverty. The majority of men do not work in Azerbaijan due to economic crisis or other factors. The men who do not work are aggressive and angry. They use their aggression against their wives. They beat their wives and children. All these factors may have an impact on the risk of divorce. Sometimes these adolescents can get injured. That is why majority of early marriages finish with divorce or childlessness. The research shows that early age at marriage is a significant impact on the risk of divorce. An inverse relationship was found between age at marriage and risk of divorce.



  1. Hervish , Feldman-Jacobs C. Ending Child Marriage: Who Speaks for Me? Population Reference Bureau. Washington, DC, 2011.
  2. Abbasov , Ibrahimova S. Azerbaijan: Baku Confronting Issue of Early Marriages . – Баку, 2011.
  3. UNICEF Azerbaijan: Электронный ресурс. - Режим доступа URL:Дата обращения 27.01.2013 (2012).
  4. Ibrahimova S.: Электронный ресурс. Режим доступа URL:Дата обращения 01.2013
  5. Электронный ресурс. - Режим доступа URL: (Дата обращения 14.01.2013).
  6. How to End Child Marriage: Action Strategies for Prevention and International Center for Research on Women, 2012.
  7. Women and Children Affairs. Azerbaijan Republic State Committee for Family: Электронный ресурс. Режим доступа URL: (Дата обращения 17.01.2013 (2012).
Year: 2013
City: Almaty