Every year, an estimated 14 million girls are married before they turn 18.Robbed of their childhood, denied their rights to health, education and security.
Child marriage is a global problem that cuts across countries, cultures, religions and ethnicities. It denies girls their rights to health, to live in security and to choose when and whom they marry. It cuts short girls’ education and traps them, their families and their communities in a cycle of poverty.
Child marriage and child betrothal customs occur in various times and places, whereby children are given in matrimony – before marriageable age as defined by the commentator and often before puberty. Today such customs are fairly widespread in parts of Africa, Asia, Oceania and South America: in former times it occurred also in Europe. It is frequently associated with arranged marriage. In some cases only one marriage-partner is a child, usually the female, due to importance placed upon female virginity, the perceived inability of women to work for money and to women’s shorter reproductive life relative to men’s. An increase in the advocacy of human rights, whether as women’s rights or as children’s rights, has caused traditions of child marriage to decrease in many areas. In 2011, a non-governmental organization known as The Elders, founded by Nelson Mandela and others, formed Girls Not Brides, a global partnership of more than 190 non-governmental organisations committed to addressing child marriage.
Child marriages may depend upon socio-economic status. The aristocracy of some cultures, as in the European feudal era tended to use child marriage as a method to secure political ties. Families were able to cement political and/or financial ties by having their children marry. The betrothal is considered a binding contract upon the families and the children. The breaking of a betrothal can have serious consequences both for the families and for the betrothed individuals themselves.
Elsewhere, where daughters are considered a liability, it may be poorer people who tend to marry early.
Child marriage is a hot topic in the Arab world at the moment – as the amount of discussion on social media shows.“Child marriage is a form of rape that is not recognised by the legislature. The criminal remains at large while the voice of the victim isn’t heard.”.
It’s commonly believed that forced and child marriage are most common in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Egypt, but there was surprising news recently: Iraq is one of the worst offenders amongst Arab countries. last week. The Iraqi minister of planning and cooperative development, Ali Shukri, said in an interview that “even in Iraq, 11% of women marry before they turn 18. The pregnancy of minors causes important health problems in the country.” For the minister, the solution would be “a UN resolution, in order to control the worldwide rise of the population and to set a minimum age for marriage”. “What does this mean [though]?” a journalist asked him on Facebook. “Should child marriage be subject to Chapter VII for example?”
In Nigeria, recently the parliament decided to vote on a bill which will favour Girl Child Marriage. Why would anyone deny children the joy, antics, plays, stories and dreams of childhood? Let stand up and condemn this act in all forms worldwide.