PERSONAL PROJECTS: Deprived of Adolescence
(early marriages in Georgia).
Georgia has one of the highest rates of early marriages in Europe. It occurs mainly among Azerbaijanis in the Kvemo Kartli region and in Mountainous Ajara region, where the population is ethnic Georgians but many are Muslims unlike the country’s Orthodox Christian majority.
A Tradition that goes back centuries, marriages in Georgia is a done mostly with cultural pressure. In villages large number of girls drop out of school to get married. A Reproductive Health Survey in 2010 revealed that “some 76.6 [percent] of married women aged 15 to 19 years used no method of modern contraception.” Unsurprisingly, then, many young brides get pregnant soon after the wedding, which can cause all sorts of health complications for their still developing bodies. Because Schools do not provide sex education, it leads to the result that the girls do not understand what marriage brings.
The United Nations Population Fund has records showing that at least 17 percent of girls in Georgia are married before they’re 18 years old—the nation’s legal age for marriage. But what makes it hard to track is that families sometimes circumvent the law, by holding off on registering the marriage for several years. They hold weddings in rural mosques or churches and consider the couple culturally and religiously married.
In my photo series I have photographed a wedding ceremony of a Georgian-Azeri couple, but I also documented the places where early marriages occur the most;
I wanted the audience to get the sense of the everyday life of the region.
One of the photograph I showed to the Georgian public was a photo that demonstrated a seventeen-year old at her wedding, having only met her soon–to–be husband, in his mid twenties, on the day of their engagement. As tears dropped from her eyes, dancing in front of her house, the dance demonstrated a farewell to her family, before the wedding ceremony. A situation far too real across Georgia, in which girls — too young to comprehend marriage — are sent off by families to be wed with little–to–no schooling, and will never have the opportunity, again, to continue any form of formal education.
Whence placing this photograph on social media, the response was big, hitting both ends of the spectrum. The greatest opposers of the work were ethnic minority groups, demanding the photo be taken down.
Early marriages is a very delicate issue in my country, where society ignores it or doesn’t talk about it, some don’t even know that it exists. I believe in the power of storytelling and think that this story can be a powerful tool to raise awareness in my country and beyond, creating a framework or platform for citizens to comment and debate on the issue at hand.