Zero child marriages in Albania in 2022
No girls under the age of 18 were married during 2022 in Albania, the first time the number has reached zero since records started to be kept.
Under Albanian law, marriage can only take place between a man and a woman over the age of 18. However, an application for an exemption can be made to the court, and approval can be granted “for matters of importance.”
The law also states that an individual can acquire the full capacity to enjoy rights at the age of 18, but if a girl marries under 18, she immediately gains the ability to act.
In 2022, a total of 18,782 marriages were registered, with zero comprising underaged girls or boys. Based on data from the Institute of Statistics, the number of girls married before 18 was 16 in 2020 and 20 in 2019, showing a decline. Numbers from the year of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown are missing from the data set.
A June 2022 report by the Albanian Ombudsman said that “child marriage in Albania is a complex issue. Young people affected by child marriage are often involved in a cycle of poverty, exploitation, and marginalisation.”
Child marriage in Albania was more prevalent in mountainous, remote areas where girls leave school around 12-13 to take on domestic obligations and prepare for marriage. Child marriage is also more prevalent within the Roma and Egyptian communities, according to the CEDAW Committee, which found in a 2018 report that child marriage is considered a strong tradition.
Some families will even seek to marry off their daughters when they hit puberty to avoid premarital sex while others seek to marry them to alleviate financial worries.
The Albanian government has committed to eliminating childhood and forced marriage by 2030 under UNDP Sustainable Development Goals. It has also ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Istanbul Convention, and several UN resolutions on forced and child marriage.
The figures, however, do not show those cohabiting, a common practice considered ‘marriage’ even if not legally. Additionally, marginalised groups, including minorities, may not have access to official documents to get legally married, making it harder to gauge the scope of the situation.
The decline in numbers could also be attributed to emigration, with 700,000 people leaving in the last decade and over 32,000 in 2022, mainly under 25.
(Alice Taylor | Exit.al)