Summary: Kyrgyz President signs bill criminalising underage marriage

November 2016: The Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambayev has signed into law a bill criminalising child marriage in unregistered religious ceremonies, which remain widespread in Kyrgyzstan. The new law classifies marriage to a minor as a criminal offence, and sets out a sentence of three to five years in prison for clergy and parents who allow underage marriage to take place. SRT grantee Open Line campaigned in favour of the bill along with other Kyrgyz women’s rights NGOs.

Child marriages take place in Kyrgyzstan in ceremonies known as nike. According to a 2014 survey conducted by the Akyikatchy (Ombudsman) of the Kyrgyz republic, around 12.7 % of Kyrgyz women and girls aged 15 to 49 were married underage.

Due to a low level of legal awareness, many women do not realise that the nike ceremony does not give them any legal rights to inherit property or to claim state financial support in the event of divorce or their husband’s death.

In May 2016 Kyrgyzstan’s mostly male parliamentary body rejected a draft law to criminalise nike, tabled by a female MP. Open Line campaigners appealed to each dissenting parliamentarian individually, explaining the impact of nike on the lives of girls, and united with other NGOs to raise public awareness. The draft law eventually passed on the second reading, and the President signed it into law on 18th November 2016.

Coverage of the new law from the UNDP website:

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