Religious leaders in the Pankisi Gorge will no longer endorse marriage for those under the age of 18. Pankisi is located in the eastern part of Georgia (Kakheti region) and is mostly populated by ethnic Kists. The decision was made by imams from traditional Islamic mosques, together with the Council of Elders in the Gorge.
In Pankisi, early marriages are most common among girls aged 16-17. Although the trend is no longer growing compared with previous years, here, girls are deemed ready for marriage after they finish school. Religious leaders enjoy a high level of authority in Pankisi, which is why their choice to make a public statement about their decision on discouraging early marriages is of paramount importance. It is noteworthy that the Council of Women Elders has contributed a lot to making this decision.
The initiative emerged in November 2015, when Pankisi’s Council of Women Elders and the Kakheti Regional Development Foundation (KRDF) organized a rally against early marriage, as part of the 16-days of Activism against Gender Violence. Iza Bekauri, Director of KRDF and one of the founders of the Council of Women Elders, says that the Council of Elders were also invited to the event: “We met with the youths and called on them to say NO to early marriage. We have worked with the Council of Elders too in this respect. They liked the initiative and decided to make this topic public.”