“Childhood should be carefree playing in the sun; not living in a nightmare in the darkness of the soul”
Childhood is all about innocence and playfulness, freedom and joy. When you ask a kindergarten kid “what do you want to become when you grow up?” Their answers are figured remarkably like superheroes, astronaut, a Michelin star chef and what not! Every child’s dream is so adventurous and gigantic. Yet, for too many kids around the world, their cute dazzling dream is shattered even before they reach their adulthood in the name of “Marriage”. That’s the case of girls in every region of the world where child marriage is practised as a custom across various cultures, religion and ethnicity.
Child marriage is quite a complex issue and is mostly driven by patriarchal societal norms. It disempowers women of her human rights. The major cause is acute poverty, gender inequality, lack of education and insecurity. In many cultures, a girl child is not much valued in her own family and is considered inferior to the boys. They are seen much as a family burden and getting them married away can be an easy solution to reduce their economic burden transferring it to the husband’s family. Sometimes the parents of the girls feel its best to give their young daughters for marriage to ensure her safety in areas where girls are at high risk of sexual harassment. If a girl accidentally becomes pregnant outside of marriage they are shamed for bringing dishonour to the family. Another major factor is poverty. The girl from the poor family is married quickly because the family feels they have got one head down to feed the family. The belief of child marriage system made every girl feel that marriage will be a solution for a secured future. Child marriage is also practised as a tradition in many cultures. The highest rate is observed in African countries like Chad and Niger, Bangladesh etc., Once a girl child attains puberty they become women in the eyes of the community ready to be a wife and a mother. In countries like Ethiopia, it is so painful to come across a traditional harmful practice like female genital mutilation to honour the passage of womanhood.
The consequences of child marriage are so alarming. Most of the child marriages happen by forcing a child to get married to someone older. Child brides are neither physically nor emotionally primed to be a man’s wife or bear his child. A 15-year-old or an 8-year-old may face a dangerous complication in pregnancy and childbirth that will lead to a rise in higher infant mortality rate in such cases because the child’s body will not be ready to face the challenges of maternity. When a child bride is unable to negotiate safer sexual practices due to the forced sexual relationship at an early age they are at high risk of contracting vulnerable disease transmitted sexually. Child marriage dramatically ends a girls childhood, cuts back her right to education, increases the risk of domestic violence and minimizes her economic opportunities.
Child marriage not only leaves a great impact on a girl child’s life but also hinders of progress towards many of our Sustainable Development Goals. The UN has recognised that not enough work is done to measure the impact of child marriage on education. As long as child marriage continues there will be poverty, gender inequality, high global maternal mortality rate, violence against women and girls and instability.
With the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals in place, many international communities have committed to ending child marriage in 15 years. This increase in eminence at international and national agenda provides a great opportunity to expedite our efforts to help and save a girl child and woman all around the world.