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No person under the age of 18 was married during 2022 in Albania, the first time that this number has reached zero since the beginning of keeping records, EURACTIV reports .
According to Albanian law, marriage can only take place between a man and a woman over the age of 18. However, an application for exemption can be made to the court and approval can be granted "on important matters".
The law also states that an individual can acquire full capacity to enjoy rights at the age of 18, but if a girl marries below 18, she immediately acquires capacity to act.
In 2022, a total of 18,782 marriages were registered, where zero involved minor girls or boys. Based on data from the Institute of Statistics, the number of married girls under 18 was 16 in 2020 and 20 in 2019, marking a decrease. Numbers from the year of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown are missing from the dataset.
The drop in numbers can be attributed to emigration, with 700,000 people leaving in the last decade and over 32,000 in 2022, mostly under 25s.
A June 2022 report by the People's Advocate of Albania stated that “child marriage in Albania is a complex issue. Young people affected by child marriage are often caught in a cycle of poverty, exploitation and marginalization.”
Child marriage in Albania was more prevalent in mountainous and remote areas, where girls leave school around the age of 12-13 to take on household duties and prepare for marriage. Child marriage is also more prevalent within Roma and Egyptian communities, according to the CEDAË 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 reach puberty to avoid premarital sex, while others seek to marry them off to ease financial concerns.
The Albanian government has committed to eliminate childhood and forced marriage by 2030 according to the Sustainable Development Goals of the UNDP. 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 who live together, a common practice that is considered 'marriage' even if not legally. Furthermore, marginalized groups, including minorities, may not have access to official documents to legally marry, making it more difficult to assess the extent of the situation.