“I’m not allowed to play with my friends, or go to school,” these are not the words we expect to come from the mouth of a little girl who has not even reached puberty, who is oblivious to the notion of love or her own sexual awakening. Why are these girls not able to enjoy the experiences of childhood? Because simply by being born in the Republic of Georgia, means the concept of marriage is trapping them in a life they should not be living in the first place.
Daro Sulakauri is an independent photographer born, and raised in the Republic of Georgia, who moved to New York after getting her Cinematography degree in Tbilsi. In America, she became a photojournalist, she won the Vienna Photo award, and in 2015, she was awarded by the Human Rights House (HRH) for best portrait in London.
Sulakauri was already familiarized with this issue, her 12 year old friend was forced into marriage: “I didn’t understand what that meant, but I felt disturbed. I didn’t see her after that, [for] years to come,” she opens up about her experiences.
Deprived of Adolescence is the title given to Daro Sulakauri’s project, where she tries to capture the confusion these girls feel during the process of getting married. The Republic of Georgia —nestled between Asia, and Europe— is not the only country were teenage marriages occur on daily basis. Whether it is men marrying little girls in Africa or gypsies forcing 12-14 year old teens to marry, the issue remains the same, these traditions and customs break the dreams and lives of these children.
Seventeen percent of the girls born in the Republic of Georgia are engaged or in the process of getting married. They have not received sexual education in school or in any other form, they meet their future husbands only a few hours before their wedding.
They are too young to fully understand their role as a bride. Their wishes or goals are belittled and ignored. In many ways, for the rest of their lives they will haunted by feelings of anger, resentment, confusion, and unfulfilled dreams.
Walking down the aisle is a lonely experience, and their path is hardly accompanied by a concerned mother or doting father who are there to give them advice and comfort. The opposite occurs quite frankly.
The World Health Organization has expressed its concerns about the current situation in the Republic of Georgia. Despite the fact that under-aged marriages are unconstitutional, it is in regions like Kakheti and Adjara —particularly in the rural zones where more ethnic and religious minorities live— that this phenomenon is more recurrent. Women have the right to receive sexual education, and yet, the government turns a blind eye to what is happening in its own territory.
The moment Daro Sulakauri decided to share her photographs in social media, hateful comments started to pour in. People ignored the fact that this is a real phenomenon, and Sulakauri’s project gives a voice to these girls trapped in a reality which should not be theirs.