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Kyrgyzstan

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
1%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
12%

* References

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)

Photo credit: Landesa

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
1%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
12%

* References

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)

What's the child marriage rate? How big of an issue is child marriage?

12% of girls in Kyrgyzstan are married before their 18th birthday and 1% are married before the age of 15.

Child marriage is most prevalent in Osh Oblast, Chui and Djalal-Abad.

Are there country-specific drivers of child marriage in this country?

Child marriage is driven by gender inequality, restrictive gender norms, with strong expectations that women and girls prioritize marriage and family, and abide by the social norms to be a worthy bride. In Kyrgyzstan, child marriage is also driven by:

  • Level of education: 33% of women with no education or primary level education were married before the age of 18, compared to only 4% who had completed higher education. There is a strong linkage between education and child marriage. While child marriage may not be the reason for dropping off school, the likelihood that a girl is married off early is substantially higher, when she is out of school.
  • Poverty: 16% of women from Kyrgyzstan’s poorest households were married as children, compared to 9% from the richest households.
  • Religion: Mullahs reportedly still conduct nikah religious ceremonies for girls under the age of 18. These marriages are rarely registered officially and are difficult to track. Although there is a recent legislative change criminalizing marriage ceremony with minors, stipulating criminal charges for a religious official, parents or caregivers of the girl, and an older spouse.
  • Force: Bride kidnapping is still prevalent in Kyrgyzstan. Agencies estimate that almost 12,000 women and girls are abducted for marriage annually. This leaves girls in a particularly isolated and vulnerable position, often unable to access support. This practice is often another driver, whereby girls agree to an arranged marriage to avoid the risk of being kidnapped.
  • Armed conflict: Child marriage as a result of rape reportedly increased following ethnic clashes in Osh and Jalalabad in 2010.
  • Family honour: Some families marry off their daughters in order to shield them from pre-marital sex and “set them up for life”.
  • Ethnicity: Child marriage is reportedly widely practiced among Uzbeks, Dungans, Turks, Tajiks and Central Asian Lyuli people, primarily driven by traditional customs and attitudes.

What has this country committed to?

Kyrgyzstan has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Kyrgyzstan co-sponsored the 2013 and 2014 UN General Assembly resolutions on child, early and forced marriage, and the 2013 Human Rights Council resolution on child, early and forced marriage.

Kyrgyzstan acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1994, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1997, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

During its 2015 Universal Periodic Review, concerns were raised about the persistence of child marriage and bride kidnapping. Kyrgyzstan supported recommendations to introduce more effective policies to combat child marriage and to strengthen public campaigns and awareness-raising on the unacceptability of the practice.

Following adoption of legislative changes banning religious marriage ceremony with minors, in December 2017, the Plan on the Implementation of the Law on Child Marriage was signed, laying out planned activities
throughout 2018.

What is the government doing to address this at the national level?

In a 2014 UNFPA study, many respondents noted that child marriage is not treated as a priority in comparison to other problems faced by children. Experts highlighted that child rights issues focus more on street children, child labour, education and healthcare concerns.

Under the “Strengthening human rights in Kyrgyzstan” project implemented with the support of the US Agency for International Development, Agency for Social Technologies developed several informational booklets on the prevention and elimination of bride kidnapping and unregistered child marriages for Committees to Prevent Domestic Violence, which are being piloted in local government bodies.

The National Human Rights Programme, which ran from 2002-2010 and was approved by Presidential decree, aimed to upgrade mechanisms for monitoring enforcement of laws related to coercion into child marriage.

UNDP is implementing large national campaigns, trainings for religious officials, and police officers aimed at preventing child marriages in Kyrgyzstan since 2016 with support from the UK Embassy.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

Under the Family Code 2005 the minimum legal age of marriage is 18 years. However individuals can marry at 17 years with the permission of the executive local public authority.

Source

Human Rights Watch, Kyrgyzstan Ups Fight Against Child Marriage, [website], 2016, (accessed May 2018)

National Statistical Committee of the Kyrgyz Republic and UNICEF, Kyrgyzstan Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2014, Final Report, 2015, (accessed May 2018)

UNECE, Kyrgyzstan, Section I. Review of Trends in the Achievement of Gender Equality in the Kyrgyz Republic, [undated], (accessed May 2018)

UNFPA, Child marriage in Kyrgyzstan (Overview), 2014, (accessed June 2018)

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Kyrgyzstan, 2015, p.7, p.18, (accessed May 2018)

UN Women, New law in Kyrgyzstan toughens penalties for bride kidnapping, [website], 2013, (accessed May 2018)

United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, (accessed February 2018)

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)