No More Child Brides

by | October 5, 2013
filed under Feminism

Image of girl in Indian wedding outfit with caption

Image from Indian NGO working to keep girls in school

by Matilda Branson

(Trigger warning: discussion of child sexual abuse)

When I was eight years old, I had three main interests in life:

  1. Building cubby houses in trees.
  2. The trampoline.
  3. Salt and vinegar flavoured chips.

And I wanted to be an archaeologist when I grew up, a stylish incarnation of the Famous Five-meets-Indiana Jones. I had few worries in life.

A few weeks ago an eight-year-old Yemeni girl died from internal bleeding from a ruptured uterus, caused by sex with her 40-year-old husband, not long after marriage.

It is not ok for an eight-year-old girl to be married to anyone.

It is not ok for an eight-year-old girl to die from sex with her 40-year-old husband.

It is fundamentally wrong, wrong, wrong.

You can feel it, no? That slightly sick feeling? It’s not fair, it’s not right – it is wrong. 11-year-old Nada al-Ahdal captures the issues and fears for child brides, as she talks about escaping her arranged marriage, in this video from earlier this year.

Child marriage. Early marriage.Forced marriage. Whatever it’s called, it’s a serious abuse of child rights. It threatens young girls’ lives, their health, and their futures (UNFPA, 2012).  It exposes girls to early pregnancy (the complications which may arise during childbirth when young being the main cause of death among 15-19 year old girls in developing countries), to HIV and STIs. Young girls are more at risk of domestic violence and sexual abuse (marital rape, a hidden form of gender-based violence, is frequently  ignored in the public sphere, left out of policies and legislation), as well as psychological and emotional harm including depression, feelings of hopelessness, and trauma among others.

Girls’ educations (formal and vocational) and their ability to attend school, and to consequently access employment opportunities and to have futures, are irretrievably lost on the day they are married.

Choice for a girl – to have the opportunity to find out what she wants, to choose what she would like to be – is stolen.

Child Marriage hot spots throughout the world:

Rank

Country Name

% girls married before 18

1

Niger

75

2

Chad

68

3

Central African Republic

68

4

Bangladesh

66

5

Guinea

63

6

Mozambique

56

7

Mali

55

8

Burkina Faso

52

9

South Sudan

52

10

Malawi

50

11

Madagascar

48

12

Eritrea

47

13

India

47

14

Somalia

45

15

Sierra Leone

44

16

Zambia

42

17

Dominican Republic

41

18

Ethiopia

41

19

Nepal

41

20

Nicaragua

41

* Child marriage prevalence is defined as the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before age 18.

Source: UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2013 – data from UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and other national surveys, and refers to the most recent year available during the period 2002-2011. Source: United Nations 

Horrified at the stats?  I was- no, I am, hence the blog post. Not enough is being done. What is scary is that if current trends continue, worldwide, 142 million girls will be married in the next decade alone (UNFPA, 2012).

Ok, so it’s wrong, and an absolute violation of human rights on every front. But to say it’s wrong, and that it just needs to stop, is way too simplistic a way to look at it. So why does it happen? Why is it so prevalent? For a detailed explanation, maybe have a look at UNFPA’s detailed 2012 report Marrying Too Young. In short though, some of the key reasons include:

 

It is a complex issue, and tackling it requires work on a range of fronts, including:

 

At the end of the day, every eight-year-old girl holds the fundamental right to be exactly that – an eight-year-old, interested in eight-year-old things. She should not die or suffer at the hands of a husband she has not chosen and that she is forced to marry.

For more information about child marriage, or how you can help, the following websites may be of use:

http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/

http://www.icrw.org/preventing-child-marriage

http://www.care.org/getinvolved/international-day-of-the-girl/index.asp

http://unfpa.org/endchildmarriage

http://www.iwhc.org/index.php

http://www.betterworldcampaign.org/take-action/end-child-marriage.html


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