As a nine-year-old, Tbilisi office manager Irina dreamed of becoming a doctor. But it never happened. Instead, she was kidnapped, got married, and had her first son when she was 15.
“It all ended,” she recalled, tearing up. “I knew nothing about reproductive health. I just read books. I had a son when I was a child myself, and no real help. … At 19, I had my second son.”
A 2014 study by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) indicated that up to 17 percent of Georgian women marry before turning 18 – one of Europe’s highest rates of underage marriage. Neighboring Turkey has an early marriage rate estimated at 14 percent.
The UNFPA study contains no sample size, and is not considered “representative.” Yet it still flags a problem.
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Monica Ellena is a Tbilisi-based freelance journalist, who has worked previously as an elementary school teacher in Italy and a university instructor in Georgia.