Despite the numerous human rights declarations condemning child marriage, the forbidden union is still common in many parts of the world, including Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Niger.
Based on data found by the International Center of Research for Women (ICRW), 100 million girls will be married before the age of 18 in the next ten years. Supporting this claim, it was found that in Niger, 77% of women now in their early 20s were married as children, while Bangladesh claimed 65%.
Child marriage, as noted by ThoughtCo, has several root causes. There are cultural, economic, and religious reasons that often provide the ideologies that the act stems from. Families facing poverty sell their children into child marriage to eliminate debts or to escape their meager living circumstances.
In certain cultures, giving away a young girl’s hand in marriage ensures her virginity, thus securing her family’s honor. As ThoughtCo aptly put it, “The imposition of family honor on a girl’s individuality, in essence, robbing the girl of her honor and dignity, undermines the credibility of family honor and instead underscores the presumed protection’s actual aim: to control the girl.”
Trafficking is also fostered in the same realm of child marriages, as poor families may sell their children into prostitution as well as child marriage, as this “transaction” ensures wages in some cases.
The atrocious causes and effects of child marriage spell extreme danger for the children forced to take part, as the marriages often result in domestic violence, marital rape, deprivation of food, lack of access to education, and death through childbearing for many of the girls.
Countries such as Pakistan do have laws against child marriage, but the laws are not actively enforced.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is working to help rehabilitate those whose lives have been torn apart through being wed as children, giving them back the rights they lost when married. Those rights include the right to an education, the right to be protected from physical and mental violence, the right to not be separated from parents against his or her will, and the right to the best attainable standard of health.
In 2006, the Nepal Report on Child Marriage shared the account of one child bride. “I was married to a nine-year-old boy when I was three,” she said. “At that point of time, I was unaware of marriages. I don’t even remember my marriage event. I just remember that as I was too young and was unable to walk and they had to carry me and bring me over to their place…”
She continued, saying, “I used to feel very hungry, but I had to be satisfied with the amount of food that I was provided. I never got to eat enough. I sometimes secretly ate corns, soybeans, et cetera that used to grow in the field. And if I was caught eating, my in-laws and husband would beat me up accusing me of stealing from the field and eating,” she stated. “Sometimes the villagers used to give me food and if my husband and in-laws found out, they used to beat me up accusing me of stealing food from the house.”
“My husband married three times after me,” she continued. “At present, he lives with his youngest wife. Since I married at an early age, early child-delivery was inevitable. As a result, I now have severe back problems. I used to weep a lot and consequently, I faced problems with my eyes and had to undergo an eye operation. I often think that if I had the power to think like I do now, I would never go to that house.”
It is telling that even through all of her hardships, this woman is considered one of the more fortunate victims of child marriage due to one factor: she survived it.
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