Early marriage banned in the Pankisi Gorge, Georgia


Religious leaders in the Pankisi Gorge will no longer endorse marriage for those under the age of 18. Pankisi is located in the eastern part of Georgia (Kakheti region) and is mostly populated by ethnic Kists. The decision was made by imams from traditional Islamic mosques, together with the Council of Elders in the Gorge.

A rally against early marriage. Photo: Kakheti Regional Development Foundation
A rally against early marriage. Photo: Kakheti Regional Development Foundation

In Pankisi, early marriages are most common among girls aged 16-17. Although the trend is no longer growing, girls are deemed ready for marriage after they finish school. Religious leaders enjoy a high level of authority in Pankisi, which is why their choice to make a public statement about their decision on discouraging early marriages is of paramount importance. It is noteworthy that the Council of Women Elders has contributed a lot to making this decision.

The initiative emerged in November 2015, when Pankisi’s Council of Women Elders and the Kakheti Regional Development Foundation (KRDF) organized a rally against early marriage, as part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. Iza Bekauri, Director of KRDF and one of the founders of the Council of Women Elders, says that the Council of Elders were also invited to the event: “We met with the youths and called on them to say NO to early marriage. We have worked with the Council of Elders too in this respect. They liked the initiative and decided to make this topic public.”

Pankisi’s Council of Women Elders was established in the Gorge in 2011, with the support of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Since 2014, the Council has also been cooperating intensively with UN Women. It consists of 18 women and its main activities are focused on women’s rights, as well as advocating for women’s issues with the male Council of Elders. The Council of Women Elders has a role mediating between local women and elderly men, while trying to raise the issue of women’s rights in an appropriate manner and advocating for fair decisions in favor of women.

In response to UN Women's call to world leaders to "Step It Up", at the Global Leaders' Meeting on 27 September 2015, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili committed to work with development partners to prevent early marriages, with activities on this issue coordinated by an inter-sectorial taskforce. He also pledged dedicated awareness raising-campaigns to combat violence against women and girls and to stop early marriages.

To read the full story visit UN Women's country website for Georgia