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Child Marriage

Written by: Leela Valadares Saili

From: Slough, England

Edited by: Andre Reis Silva

As children, we fantasize about our future weddings and romances, yet we don’t know about the atrocities occurring with some girls younger than the age of 15. In many poorer communities around our globe, young girls are being forced to marry older men due to poverty and the lack of opportunities. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights expresses that ‘men and women of full age are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution’. So why does this problem still occur?

The first factor is gender inequality. This makes the women and girls within these societies be treated as inferior or second-class to men, and child marriage is a prime example of this inequality. This is stemmed from the patriarchal society which is still present, predominantly in these less-developed communities, allowing men to control the way these young girls behave, dress,who they see and where they go. This ruins a girl’s perception of herself, causing her to believe that her self-value is lower than it is, and allows a girl to falsely believe that these occurrences are a normality. Furthermore, the child brides of the world could indicate a form of neglect on the parent’s behalf, however others could argue that the money given to them due to the marriage between child and man could change their lives and the lives of their other children for the better. A dowry or “bride price” may supply a high income for a girl’s family in times of economic hardship. This point does not excuse the trauma a child would have to deal with due to the potential exploitation of their age and bodies, however it allows us to maybe understand the reasons behind the parents selling their children. Unicef states that ‘more than 110 million additional girls will marry before their 18th birthday over the next decade.' This figure is just under the entire population of Russia. 

Secondly, the organisation Girls Not Brides presented the statistic that ‘nearly 40% of girls in the world's poorest countries are married as children, twice the global average’.  This allows us to see that these girls do not have a voice. Financial reasons are often listed as the main cause for these marriages and this occurs because girls have a lower access to education and low social, political and economic status, therefore making them economically dependent on men. Their families, and sometimes themselves, may see marriage as their only option to get out of debt and create a better environment. This limits the opportunities a girl has, as she has no freedom to pursue or even form her dreams and the more underage marriages that transpire, the more it is normalised within small communities in under-developed areas. 

A final factor which we will explore is the increase in child marriages in areas of conflict. In these areas, children are convinced that they should marry or enter informal unions with older men who promise to reunite them with family members who have already migrated or have been displaced. Nobody likes to be away from their family, and children would do anything to be with their loved ones. In areas of crises, the access to education is minimum and so these girls are further exposed to abuse and ill-treatment, such as modern-day slavery and child marriage - sometimes even both. The media in these places does not have the facilities to cover these issues, allowing this problem to go unmentioned and unresolved. 

In conclusion, the gender inequalities, economic problems, and crises in countries all join together in stripping away the voices of millions of young girls globally. And unlike girls in Western countries, many girls encounter this unfortunate fate, and fantasize about having an education rather than about weddings.

Child Marriage: Feature Story
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