2,000 children in Serbia forcibly enter into a marriage union every year


2,000 children in Serbia forcibly enter into a marriage union every year

September 13, 2018 | Society

2,000 children in Serbia forcibly enter into a marriage union every year. Child marriages are not a rare practice among the Roma community, however they are also present among general population in Serbia. Jelena Hrnjak from the NGO Atina, that helps girls who happen to be in this situation, says that this is becoming more pronounced among the girls who live in rural areas, which occurs due to poverty.

photo: Kopernikus TV

Child marriages are rare neither across the world nor in Serbia. Parents arrange marriages for their children before their legal age, and often times it is a matter of trafficking of children. The most threatened are girls– every other gets married before she turns 18, while almost every fifth before she turns 15. Jelena Hrnjak from NGO “Atina” says: “Many girls who are forced to enter into an early marriage usually don’t have personal documents, and their parents are frequently not registered in the system; thus, it is very difficult to track them down and talk about exact figures. On the other hand, these figures vary, and there are about 2,000 children in Serbia who are forced into marriages on an annual basis “, says Hrnjak.

Child marriages constitute a fundamental violation of children’s rights and thereby threaten psycho-physical health of girls and expose them to the risk of domestic violence and human trafficking. Surveys show that child marriages are one of the key reasons for dropping out of school among Roma female population, which traps them in a vicious cycle of poverty and leads to economic dependency. However, child marriages are not only present among Roma population.

“This is not a Roma community tradition; whoever says that it is their tradition certainly confirms that these children and girls have no right to life, that their lives are threatened, thereby standing in the way of their growth and development; therefore, we can’t speak about the concept of tradition or it being solely Roma population trait. There are numerous poor families across Serbia, girls who live in rural areas of our country, where this practice is endorsed for various reasons. It all boils down to a deep poverty of our society“, stresses Jelena Hrnjak.

In order to eradicate this severe social issue, it is necessary to have a coordinated approach of all relevant stakeholders both locally and nationally. It is essential that a country has laws in place that stipulate age of 18 as the lowest age limit for entering into marriage, because if children are not recognized by the law as children, they can’t have full protection. It is equally important to empower children and respect their opinion, as they are recognized as one of the key drivers of changes in prevention and elimination of child marriages.

Original video available on the following webpage: https://kcnonline.rs/godisnje-oko-2000-malisana-stupi-u-prinudni-brak/