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ponedeljak, 29. oktobar 2018.

Praxis Held a Community Meeting Focused on the Prevention and Elimination of Child, Early and Forced Marriages

On 29 October 2018, Praxis held a consultative meeting with representatives of institutions in Zemun to discuss the prevention and elimination of child, early and forced marriages, as part of the project "Legal Assistance to Persons at Risk of Statelessness in Serbia", financed by UNHCR. 

The goal of the meeting was to bring together local stakeholders to try to jointly identify possible solutions for the prevention and elimination of child, early and forced marriages. A total of 13 representatives of social welfare centres, schools, prosecutors' offices, health care institutions, as well as Roma activists, participated in the meeting. After the introductory presentation, the attendees were informed about the activities conducted by Praxis in the field of elimination and prevention of child marriages, with particular focus on the conclusions reached. Praxis provided an overview of the problems of child, early and forced marriages in Serbia, the region and the world, with special emphasis on national and international regulations governing the rights of the child, marriage and family relations, as well as the role and responsibility of competent authorities to prevent the neglect of children and violence against children. Through an interactive approach to the topic and examples of good practice, the participants discussed possible solutions and the eradication of child marriages, which, among other things, is closely related to the problem of statelessness in Serbia. Accordingly, the Statelessness Index, which assesses how countries in Europe protect stateless people and what they are doing to prevent and reduce statelessness, was presented.

The participants demonstrated a high level of interest in the topic, regardless of whether they had encountered cases of child marriage or not. The presence of representatives of almost all relevant institutions at the level of local self-government, as well as representatives of the Roma community, initiated a quality interactive discussion, which showed the necessity of cross-sectoral cooperation and preventive work with parents in the form of educational and advisory sessions. However, although the participants were fairly aware of the seriousness of the problem of child marriages, they still perceived it primarily as part of the Roma culture and tradition, and expressed concern that imposing the culture and tradition of the majority would compromise cooperation with the Roma community. Despite being obliged to act in accordance with national and international regulations, representatives of institutions expressed their dilemma of whether dealing with this issue inevitably meant interfering with the tradition of the Roma community, while ignoring the fact that child marriages were primarily a serious violation of the rights of girls. Health sector representatives denied that the body of a 15-year old female was unprepared for reproduction and stated that the girls of that age were considered women, and not girls, which substantially differed from the views of national and international experts. This meeting demonstrated that it was necessary to continue with such or similar meetings aimed at raising awareness about the harmfulness of child marriages and stressing that child marriages should be seen as harmful traditional practices, endangering primarily the psychophysical health of girls and their overall development. 

In November 2018, Praxis will hold another consultative meeting in Zemun.

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