Age at marriage and child-birth: trends among Romani groups in Bulgaria and in migration
University of Iceland
In Bulgaria, one of the constant media and public stereotypes about the Roma is that they get married at child age. It goes hand in hand with other deep-rooted public stereotypes that are believed to be interlinked with early marriage – the ‘uneducated Gypsy’, a high number of children, living off social benefits, particularly child allowances. At the same time both qualitative and quantitative studies show a steady trend of gradual increase in the marriageable age and age at first child birth among Roma, and today most of the Romani females get married after reaching the lawful age of 18. This paper discusses the marriageable age and early marriage practices among several Romani groups from three regions of Bulgaria (Sliven, Montana and Shumen) in their home country and in migration. I present statistical data about the national trends from the last two decades regarding age at marriage and age at first birth. I also discuss how different group practices and attitudes regarding marriageable age and child birth have changed over the last few decades and particularly how the migration of individuals and families has influenced these practices and attitudes. The paper also draws parallels with research results on marriage age among Romani women from Romania and Slovakia.