According to research conducted by the Roma Center for Women and Children, Daje, more than two-thirds of Roma women in Serbia got “married” before the age of eighteen, and as many as 30% of them between the ages of 13 and 15.
More than half of Roma women become mothers before the age of eighteen, while one third give birth to their first child between the ages of 14 and 16.
The consequences of forced and underage unions for girls and women are numerous and include dropping out of school, a lower level of education, health risks associated with early sexual activity and underage pregnancies, and poverty.
Life in consanguineous and juvenile unions is also associated with a significantly increased risk of a woman’s exposure to physical, psychological, economic and sexual violence by her partner or other male family members. For “married” girls, the first wedding night is rape and represents the beginning of a life of violence.
Although forced and underage unions are widespread in the Roma community, this harmful practice must not be interpreted as part of the Roma tradition, but must be understood exclusively as a gross violation of the human rights of girls, and it is necessary to ensure all measures to end it. One of the most important protective factors is keeping girls in the education system.