Millions of adolescent and teenage girls around the world are victims of child marriage every year, unable to take control of their own destiny and forced into subservience by their older husbands. This issue happens in many countries around the world, including Niger, Chad, Bangladesh, Mozambique, Mali, Malawi and the Central African Republic.
Besides the sad fact that the innocence of a young bride is being stripped away at a time when her life should be just beginning, there are a number of other serious issues with child marriage. It perpetuates the cycle of poverty, because girls are not able to attend school and create a brighter future for themselves and the community. It also has negative effects on health, because girls under the age of 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women who are in their 20s.
Child Marriage and Violence
Another major issue associated with child marriage is violence. Girls who are married before the age of 18 have been proven to be more likely to be the victims of domestic violence than other girls who are married later.
A study was conducted by the International Center For Research On Women in two different states in India. The research that was conducted here revealed that girls who forced into marriage before the age of 18 were twice more likely to say that they had been beaten, threatened or slapped by their husbands than girls who are married later.
It is also more common for young teenage brides to show signs of sexual abuse and post-traumatic stress. These young brides often report feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and severe depression.
In April 2010, a 13-year-old girl in Yemen died of internal bleeding and injuries only a few days after her marriage to a man who is almost twice her age. The medical report found that she suffered a severe tearing of her genitalia and serious bleeding. This is a tragic and sad example of the type of abuse that young child brides face.
Essentially, all sex within a child marriage is rape. A girl who is below the age of consent and these young girls (sometimes as young as 8 years old) cannot give free or valid consent to the union. These marriages happen out of force, deception or coercion – including emotional pressure from the family and even abduction or imprisonment.
The victim of a child marriage is often all alone and has nowhere to turn for help. They don’t have access to social services that would be able to assist them and they no longer have the right to education.
However, Plan UK is working to change this so that we can end the horrible practice of child marriage. Visit the Plan UK website to find out more about how you can do your bit to end forced marriage.