FACTS ABOUT EARLY CHILD MARRIAGE

Posted: July 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

Child marriage is increasingly recognized as a violation of the rights of girls for the following reasons:

effectively ending their education
blocking any opportunity to gain vocational and life skills
exposing them to the risks of too-early pregnancy, child bearing, and motherhood before they are physically and psychologically ready
increasing their risk of intimate partner sexual violence and HIV infection.

Child marriage is a global issue but rates vary dramatically, both within and between countries. In both proportions and numbers, most child marriages take place in rural sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Child marriage – defined as marriage before the age of 18 – applies to both boys and girls, but the practice is far more common among young girls.

Child marriage, which has existed for centuries, is a complex issue, rooted deeply in gender inequality, tradition and poverty. The practice is most common in rural and impoverished areas, where prospects for girls can be limited. In many cases, parents arrange these marriages and young girls have no choice.

Poor families marry off young daughters to reduce the number of children they need to feed, clothe and educate. In some cultures, a major incentive is the price prospective husbands will pay for young brides.

Social pressures within a community can lead families to wed young children. For example, some cultures believe marrying girls before they reach puberty will bring blessings on families. Some societies believe that early marriage will protect young girls from sexual attacks and violence and see it as a way to insure that their daughter will not become pregnant out of wedlock and bring dishonour to the family.

Too many families marry their daughters simply because early marriage is the only option they know.

Ending child marriage is closely related to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Every Woman Every Child initiative and to efforts to reach Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 3, 4 and 5 to promote gender equality, to reduce child mortality and to improve maternal health.

The continued occurrence of child marriage has hindered the achievement of these MDGs, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia.

“I urge governments, community and religious leaders, civil society, the private sector, and families—especially men and boys—to do their part to let girls be girls, not brides,” says the Secretary-General.

Ending child marriage would also help countries achieve other MDGs aimed at eradicating poverty, achieving universal education and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, and should also figure within a renewed development agenda.

“The needs of adolescent girls were overlooked in the Millennium Development Goals; they must have a central place in any new goals set by the international community,” said Lakshmi Sundaram, Global Coordinator of Girls Not Brides. “By using the rate of child marriage as an indicator to monitor progress against new goals, we can make sure that governments address the practice and focus on ensuring the welfare of their girls.”

Strategies for ending child marriage recommended to the Commission on the Status of Women include:

– supporting and enforcing legislation to increase the minimum age of marriage for girls to 18 years;
-providing equal access to quality primary and secondary education for both girls and boys;
-mobilizing girls, boys, parents and leaders to change practices that discriminate against girls and to create social, economic, and civic opportunities for girls and young women;
-providing girls who are already married with options for schooling, employment and livelihood skills, sexual and reproductive health information and services (including HIV prevention), and offering recourse from violence in the home;
-addressing the root causes of child marriage, including poverty, gender inequality and discrimination, the low value placed on girls and violence against girls.

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