The underrage birth rate calls marriage laws into question
In 2018, 2,129 children in Azerbaijan were born to mothers 15-17 years old.
In Azerbaijan, sexual relations with minors under the age of 16 are punishable by law. The official age of marriage is 18 years.
According to statistics, the number of children born to underage mothers over the past three years has decreased by several hundred:
2015 – 2,895;
2016 – 2,809;
2017 – 2 421.
Despite legislative prohibitions, underrage marriages are popular in Azerbaijan. If an underaged girl cannot be married by law, a wedding celebration is simply arranged.
Children born from such unions are considered illegitimate, and the father must recognize them separately.
Public organisations are trying to combat this tendency through educational campaigns and appeals to the government.
Since underrage marriage is prohibited by law, the fathers of babies born to underrage mothers should be identified. However, it almost never comes to this.
Pediatrician Elsa Ibrahimova says that she often has to deal with mothers who are not yet 16 years old.
“Usually these are families living in an unregistered marriage. They find different ways to circumvent the law. In addition, both early adopters and officials often look at it through their fingers, perceiving such cases not as a violation of the law, but simply as a national tradition. In general, if the parents are happy with everything, then no one pays attention to it and does not make a fuss”, the doctor says.