Throughout the world, marriage is considered to be a happy moment in everyone’s life and is a moment of celebration but sadly, the practice of child marriage gives no such reason for celebration. Many young boys and girls get married before they can reach the age of 18. This shocking act takes place for a number of reasons. In order to get benefitted socially, physically and to decrease financial burdens, many parents and families throughout the world, promote the marriage of their young sons and daughters. Throughout the years, we have seen that child marriage targets more girls than boys. Boys are affected as well but in totality, the number of victims and the intensity of their sufferings are way higher for girls. After their marriage, girls live an exclusive life where they do not receive any kind of education, they are forced for performing huge amounts of household works, are impregnated without their approval and are forced to take the big responsibility of raising and taking care of a child when they themselves are not mature enough and are still kids. What problems can child marriage lead to?
Child marriage is caused when two young or one young and one adult individuals are forced into the institution of marriage without their consent. According to researches by PBS, “Although the definition of child marriage includes boys, most children married under the age of 18 years are girls.” The kid or kids getting married are totally unaware of its significance and consequences it can lead to in future years. Usually when a child, commonly girl, is married and brought into the husband’s family in such a young age, they think they can design and built up her personality into anything and everything they want her to be. The girl child is then forced into various activities which harms her both physically and mentally. (PBS, II).
After getting married, the girl child is then pressurized by her new family to do things that she doesn’t want to. She is forced by her husband to get into sexual activities and to have kids soon after. As she is not mentally prepared and physically mature, she faces various complications and health issues in the future and sometimes it also leads to death. The connection between the maternal death and the age of the mother is very strong as the child bride is highly likely to get pregnant in a little while after her marriage causing their pregnancy to be premature. According to the digest by UNICEF, “Girls ages 10-14 are five times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than women aged 20-24. Girls ages 15-19 are twice as likely to die.” Such young mothers also face a very high chance of getting into complications such as heavy bleeding, various infections, diseases like anemia etc. which can lead to death. As first time mothers, girls also face a high risk of a disease called Obstructed Fistula, which is lead by obstructed labor. Obstructed labor is when a it is hard for a mother to give birth to a child and push it out of her body. This causes great pain and ofter results in death of the mother. According to PBS, “There are approximately 2 million girls living with fistula, and 100,000 new cases every year.” Girls suffering from this disease are usually neglected by their husbands and kept away from the society. There is this myth, according to which a lot of people around the world think that by marrying the child early, they can reduce the chances of their kid getting HIV aids but the opposite is true. Married girls are more likely to get HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases compared to the ones who aren’t married. This is mostly because they are not enough educated about sex, its consequences and the use of contraceptive and if by any chance they are aware about this, they are not able to obtain the same as because of limited autonomy or freedom of movement. They are also abused by their family, which is a form of domestic violence, and this makes them mentally ill leading to depression.(UNICEF).
There is a very close relation between child marriage and Domestic violence. Most of the cases about domestic violence are of people who were married early ore were married forcefully. According to studies, “Girl child is usually married by a man who is much more older than her” thus proving that her in laws and husband is much more stronger than her and she possesses less control. Sometimes the young bride thinks that it is justified that she s getting beaten up by her husband as she is too young to differentiate between right and wrong. Studies by UNICEF say that, “women who marry early are more likely to be beaten or threatened, and more likely to believe that husbands might sometimes be justified in beating his wife.” Also in Kenya, 36 percent of girls married before 18 believe that a man is sometimes justified in beating his wife, compared to 20 percent of married women .Girls who get proper education and are married later take more mature decisions and raise their voices against such abuses. According to research by ICRW, “Girls who were married before 18 were twice as likely to report being beaten, slapped or threatened by their husbands as girls who married later. They were three times as likely to report being forced to have sex without their consent in the previous six months.” This indicates how girls have less power compared to the men in such kind of marriage. Girls who get into the institution of marriage after the age of 18 are much more knowledgeable compared to the young ones and they have a health husband-wife relationship as they use contraceptives and contains the strength to go and talk to their husbands about the future and their likes and dislikes. This creates a better understanding between them making them have a happy life ahead. While on the other hand, the child bride is like a puppet for their husbands as they can use them whenever they want and the child bride is too shy to go and talk to him about her life and her needs. (ICRW). What are the socio-cultural and economic reasons that lead to child marriage? There are a lot of reasons that lead to Child marriage. An integration of various cultural, regional, economical, social and religious causes makes up the roots of this act.
Poverty is considered to be one of the most basic reasons for a girl getting married off in an early age. According to a fact sheet released by UNFPA, “The practice of child marriage has decreased globally over the last 30 years, it remains common in rural areas and among the poor.” There are a number of poor men who are not able to feed and run their family well. In order to feed their other children, clear debts or in exchange of some money, they decide to marry off their child, usually a girl to a man who is way older than her hoping for a better future. Such a decision just makes the life of the girl child difficult like hell and satisfies the needs of the bride’s family just for a short term but in no way helps anyone have a well settled life. (McGluain).
Protection of Family’s honor
Some parents and families also think that it is a good way to save their family’s honor by marrying their girl child in an early age. There are various cultures where there is a belief that if a girl loses her virginity before she marries someone, then it is very shameful for the family and thus spoils its reputation and honor. Therefore by marrying a girl in an early age presume the girl’s sexuality and that she is being married as a virgin protecting the family’s honor. This is very discouraging for the girls as by imposing family’s respect and honor on them; there family doubts her nature and this harms her self-respect and dignity. Girls are also expected to marry older man as they are more knowledgeable and sensible and can take care of the girl child as a parent but this is not the truth for almost all the cases in fact the opposite happens breaking the girl’s morals and leading her into depression.(UNFPA).
Discrimination based on gender
Another main reason for child marriage is discrimination based on gender. In various cultures and society, people regard girls as the week ones or the one who holds less or no power and devaluates and discriminates against them. According to a research by UNICEF, “often manifests itself in the form of domestic violence, marital rape, and deprivation of food, lack of access to information, education, healthcare, and general impediments to mobility.” In many cases of child marriage, the family gives the child bride less value and restricts her from doing things she want. The child is usually not enough educated to fight for her rights so she stays quiet and takes goes through the troubles her husband and in laws put her through. They are also disrespected by the society if they do a small mistake. They are not able to live a normal life and are forced into various unacceptable activities. They are also beaten up by their husbands and they use the girl the way they want. This way either the girl ends up being destroyed mentally or sometime even dying. (UNICEF).
Violation of laws
In various countries there are various laws which restrict child marriage and are against them for example Pakistan and India. Even though such laws exist, the constitutions of these countries don’t take any strict actions if people violate them. The legal age for marriage in India is 18 years for
girls and 21 for boys. Under the Child Marriage Prevention Act, 1929, any marriage before these ages is banned. Despite in presence of such laws, a huge number of child marriages take place everywhere and no one tries to stop it. According to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) “100 million girls will be married before the age of 18 in the coming decade.”(ICRW).
What are the similarities and dissimilarities between present day child marriage and the ones in the past? There is not much difference between present day child marriage and the one that took place years back. People follow the footsteps of their ancestors and blindly believe them. In the past, people were married off early as they were unaware about the fact that it is a harmful practice and causes various problems. Year after year, as the time passed, people followed the same rules without changing or checking whether it is legit or not. In some places, people got educated and they studied about it. They understood about its good and bad points and on based on that they started changing the rules. Still in various parts of the world, there exists a lot of places where people, mainly the girls, are being married at a really young age. This is happening as these places are very backwards and lack education. According to UNFPA, “ more than 100 million young girls will be married off in the next decade”. (UNFPA). How does child marriage differ in different parts of world?
Child Marriage is common in various places throughout the globe and is much more common with girls than boys. According to a survey by UNICEF, “One of every seven girls gets married before they turn fifteen and one of every three girls gets married under age, that is before they turn eighteen. The Highest rate of child marriage is in West Africa. It is followed by southern Asia, the Middle East and then the Latin America. The condition of some countries are so poor that they more than a half of the under aged female population f the country are married or are about to get married. According to UNFPA fact sheet, “76 percent of girls in Nigeria , 74 per cent of girls in Democratic Republic of Congo, 54 per cent of girls in Afghanistan , 50 per cent of girls in India and 51 per cent of girls in Bangladesh are married under age, that is before turning 18.” These countries lack education and schools in rural areas so the most of the crowd is illiterate and are also lagging economically. Hence, it is proved that poverty and education is inversely proportional. There are customs in India which allow people to give away the kids on the auspicious day and event of ‘Akha Teej’. Families use this to get money and property. A lot of kids under the age of 10 are involved in it and some are toddlers of age 3 or 4. When it comes to Nigeria, studies by UNICEF shows that “44 percent of 20-24 year old women in Niger were married under the age of 15”. These people follow the idiosyncratic and traditional laws setup by their ancestors. Even in Bangladesh, girls are married as soon as they hit puberty just to save their family’s honor and to release financial burdens form the parents. As education increases, people get aware of the problems caused by such acts and they emphasize on learning which in return makes them prosperous and ensures a secure life ahead. Studies also shows that countries in East Asia like Taiwan, South Korea, Japan etc. have almost removed the tradition of child marriage their prosperity is increasing rapidly day by day. These places are characterized by economic growth, opportunities, declines in death and birth rates, Increase in employment and educational options for girls etc. (UNICEF).
How can it affect the lives of the future generations?
One of the most essential and basic reasons because of which child marriage still exists is education. Studies have shown the important role that education plays in child marriage. Research by UNICEF shows that “the more education a girl receives, the less likely she is to be married as a child. Improving access to education and eliminating gender gaps in education are therefore important strategies for ending the practice of child marriage.” It is clear that if more and more girls will be educated, the will be more aware about the things going on around them and can have the power to stand for themselves and judge between right and wrong. (UNFPA).
To conclude, child marriage is generally seen as one of the easiest ways established by poor to lower middle class families to make their and their child’s future safe but in almost all the cases, it is not true. It only secures the family from poverty for a short time period but destroys the life of the girl child forever. With the marriage comes various issues and problems which the young brides go through and in most of the cases they end up dying as they are not strong enough mentally or physically to go through such pain. It also affects the future generations. The babies born to girls under 16 years of age are more likely to die during their first year of life and if they survive, they aren’t healthy like a child who is born from a 20 year old woman, and goes through various deformities in future. As the girls are being married in an early age, they are not able to get educated and this makes a big difference.
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