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Friday, 16 April 2021

ANNOUNCEMENT: Report “Child, Early and Forced Marriages in Serbia – regulations, response and prevention”

Within the project „Legal Assistance to Persons at Risk of Statelessness in Serbia, funded by UNHCR, Praxis prepared the report “Child, Early and Forced Marriages in Serbia – regulations, response and prevention”.

Child marriage represents a gross violation of child rights, especially the rights of girls, child neglect, deprivation of the right to childhood, education, proper and full development and freedom of choice, and it often includes child abuse. International and national regulations provide a satisfactory legal framework for the prevention and response to child, early and forced marriages, but the fact that as many as one third of Roma girls are currently in child marriage indicates a clear failure to implement numerous international conventions that Serbia has ratified, as well as domestic legislation.

The report, on the one hand, presents the results of the research on practical implementation of the Instruction on the manner of work of social welfare centres - guardianship authorities in the protection of children against child marriages which regulates the manner of work of social welfare centres in the protection of children from child, early and forced marriages in situations where there is a risk of entering such a marriage or where such a marriage exists. On the other hand, the report also provides an overview of Praxis activities and findings from 2020 relating to child, early and forced marriages, primarily prevention activities in the work with primary school children, as well as the views and attitudes of children about this issue.

Praxis research showed that less than half of the social welfare centres keep separate records on child marriages (43%). The centres detected only 313 cases of the risk of child marriage or child marriage in the previous two years, while current data from UNICEF (MICS 6 – Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey from 2019) indicates that 34.1% of Roma girls in the age group 15-19 are currently married or cohabiting. The centres immediately intervened in only 29% of these cases, i.e. assessed that in less than a third of cases there was a threat to the life, health and development of a child in need of protection, although the children were married or at risk of child marriage. The centres did not have an answer about the evaluation of undertaken measures and provided services for more than a third of the cases (36%) and they managed to return only 21% of the children to their primary families by applying the available measures and services.

Through workshops organized with children, it may be concluded that they are well aware of the existence of this harmful phenomenon in their community and that they make a distinction between voluntary and forced marriages. As regards forced marriages, a distinction was made between those involving the sale of a bride, arranged marriages and, finally, marriages as a type of punishment for children. In addition to the mentioned forced marriages, the children also gave examples of voluntary marriages, but these marriages also involved paying a certain amount for the child. In fact, the only type of marriage where there was no payment for the bride are those for which children do not have the support of their families and have to run away from home. The children were not aware that the child selling they talked about and the coercion of minors to marry were criminal offences. The children expressed complete distrust in institutions, because they were not aware of any situation where the mentioned bodies responded appropriately or prevented a child marriage.

In the communities where examples of child marriages were most common there were many responses such as: "Nobody can do anything to parents." "Whether she wants it or not, she MUST." "Nobody asks her anything." "She cannot try anything!

The report indicates that there is no necessary systemic response of all competent institutions and that it is urgent to intensify the activities aimed at preventing child, early and forced marriages through a networked and multidisciplinary approach of all actors that should be continuously trained, informed and held accountable.


The report may be found HERE

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