We will talk about early marriage, at such an age when full physical and psychological development is not yet reached. Unfortunately, it is still a widespread phenomenon worldwide and it affects both girls and boys, contrary to popular belief.
Di Alessandra Ivaldi / 24.03.2021
Child brides are forced into having weddings at a very young age, sometimes right after their first menstruation. Some are even promised to a man from the moment they are born. Forced marriage has tragic physical, psychological, and social implications for women.
For one thing, girls are denied the chance to make their own decisions about their lives and their bodies. In most cases, they give up studying, which can have serious consequences; a lack of education paves the way to a life of poverty and abuse.
Another risk for child brides is that of early pregnancy, often followed by more pregnancies shortly after. Studies have shown that girls under the age of 18 have a higher risk of dying during pregnancy than women between 20 and 29 years old. According to Unicef, early pregnancies cause every year about 70.000 deaths among girls aged 15 to 19.
At the same time, children born from early pregnancies are more likely to be born prematurely, putting them at risk for a lifetime of physical and cognitive disabilities, as well as premature death. But it is not just about early pregnancies; these young brides also face domestic violence daily.
But what about boys? Since early marriage mostly affects girls, little research has been done on boys, but it is known to have the same dangerous consequences. Recent studies have shown that around 115 million boys worldwide marry before coming of age. These very young grooms have to take on responsibilities for which they are not ready. To provide for their families, they are forced to abandon their studies and give up jobs and quality-of-life opportunities that come with a higher level of education.
What are the reasons behind this phenomenon? Poverty and conflict situations that affect some countries around the world are, of course, two of the most important factors. In these circumstances, marrying off one’s daughter or son, regardless of their age, may be one of the few remaining options for sustaining a family. But that’s not the only reason for these marriages to happen: ancient traditions and matters of honour are still considered valid reasons to resort to this solution. Losing one’s virginity or getting pregnant out of wedlock, for example, would damage irreversibly the family’s honour and the girl herself, even if the cause was sexual abuse. Unfortunately, early marriage is often considered the only viable solution to avoid such consequences.
So, the question is, can we do something to stop this terrible practice? Luckily, we can. Many organisations around the world hold public awareness campaigns to persuade communities and families to abandon these harmful practices and allow girls to live a life worth living. In addition to awareness-raising programs, there are several efforts to promote the right to education for boys and girls, even in the poorest areas of the world. This is the best strategy for safeguarding these young lives against early marriages, as well as abuse, violence, and child labour.
For further information, go to: https://www.unicef.org/