Early or child marriage is the union, whether official or not, of two persons, at least one of whom is under 18 years of age. By virtue of being children, child spouses are considered to be incapable of giving full consent, meaning that child marriages should be considered a violation of human rights and the rights of the child. Rates of child marriage are low in Albania, but the practice is found among Roma and in some isolated rural communities.
Child marriage is a gendered phenomenon that affects girls and boys in different ways. Overall, the number of boys in child marriages around the world is significantly lower than that of girls. Girl child spouses are also vulnerable to domestic violence and sexual abuse within relationships that are unequal, and if they become pregnant, often experience complications during pregnancy and childbirth, as their bodies are not ready for childbearing.
Child marriage in Albania is a complex issue. Poverty, the lack of value placed on girls education, geographical isolation, social exclusion, trafficking. Child marriage within certain communities is itself helping to perpetuate these trends as well. This is locking young people affected by child marriage into a cycle of poverty, exploitation, and marginalization.
Child marriage has been practiced in the last two decades among some communities living in extremely remote, rural, mountainous areas, where a patriarchal mentality meets poverty. Here the practice exclusively involves girls under 18 years of age. Boys enter marriage later in life, generally between their mid-20s and early 30s. Nowadays, child marriages are less common, although they still exist. In these communities, marriages are arranged by families, and girls have no say in the choice of spouse. Male dominance plays a significant role. The father makes the decision, while the girl’s mother has little said on the matter and just has to hope that her daughter will be lucky.
Girls living in these remote village areas are unaware of the available choices, given that most have never traveled outside of their village. According to a report on the rights of the child published by the Albanian Children’s Alliance, many girls in these mountain communities drop out of school at age 12- 13, in order to take on domestic work at home and prepare for marriage.