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Opinions on early-age marriage and marriage customs among Kurdish-speaking women in southeast Turkey
  1. Meliksah Ertem, MD, Public Health Specialist1 and
  2. Tahire Kocturk, PhD, Dr Med Sci, Director of Centre2
  1. Department of Public Health, School of Medicine, Dicle University, Diyarbakir, Turkey
  2. Karolinska Institute, Center for Family Health and Community Medicine, Huddinge, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Dr Meliksah Ertem, Department of Public Health, School of Medicine, Dicle University, 21280 Diyarbakir, Turkey. E-mail: mertem{at}


Objectives For women, marriage before the age of 18 years has adverse consequences for physical, mental and emotional well-being and constitutes a barrier for continued education. According to a national survey, about 50% of all women in Eastern Turkey were aged under 18 years at first marriage.

Methods This study explored women's opinions and experiences of early marriage and culture-specific marriage customs in the province of Diyarbakir, a region of Turkey populated mostly by people of Kurdish ethnicity. A random sample of 966 women aged 15 years or older living in urban and rural areas of the province completed a questionnaire on age at marriage and social status. Qualitative data on women's opinions and experiences were also collected through focus group interviews with 90 women.

Results The frequency of early marriage ranged from 19% in the youngest age group to 63% in women aged 60 years or older. Analysis of focus group interviews through a qualitative modified content method showed that girls were considered marriageable some years after the menarche and considerations regarding the protection of family honour were key factors leading parents to arrange the early marriage of their daughters, sometimes without their consent. Some culture-specific marriage customs included cradle betrothal, cousin marriage and berdel (exchange of brides between two families).

Conclusion There is a need for public health and family planning workers to create greater awareness of the adverse consequences of early marriage through parental arrangements.

  • arranged marriage
  • berdel
  • cousin marriage
  • early marriage
  • family honour

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