Child Marriage: A Human Rights Violation

Topics: Marriage, Millennium Development Goals, Sexual intercourse Pages: 6 (2120 words) Published: June 11, 2013
Child marriage is a serious form of human rights violation affecting young girls globally. It was estimated 10 million girls under the age of 18 get married every year (Bruce & Clark 2004) and according to Population Council Analysis of United Nations Country Data on Marriage (2002), more than 100 million girls will get married in the next decade if the current pattern persists. Girls who are disproportionately the most affected by this inhumane practice suffer tremendously. It is unreasonable such practice that robs away a girl's childhood can exist, considering the devastating effects such as physical and psychological damages, severe health consequences and denial of personal development.

1.1 Physical and Psychological Damages

Many young girls who are being forced into marriage face abuse and violence as their daily reality, yet most of them believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife (Jenson & Thornton 2003). For example, in Kenya, 36 percent of girls married before 18 consider the action of a husband beating his wife is acceptable as compared to 20 percent of married women (UNICEF 2005). Prolonged violence behaviours towards child brides including coercive sex, verbal abuse, slapping and beatings cause them to be emotionally affected and undergo post-traumatic stress. According to Khan and Lynch (1997), such symptoms are like feeling of hopelessness, helplessness and severe depression. Young married girls are extremely vulnerable and have little power in relation to their husbands and in-laws. They are often treated as domestic slaves to work in their in-law's households. As much as young married girls are desperate to run away from their brutal marriages, they are often tied down with reasons that oblige them to stay. Most often than not is because of economic pressures and other social circumstances.

There are those who seek for avenues to leave their spouses, there are also those who are abandoned, divorced or led into widowhood. They suffer a loss of status and ostracized by society with additional discrimination, for example being denied of property rights, as in many cultures divorced, abandoned or widowed women are often looked down upon (Tamunoimama 2012). They usually end up living in poverty as they have no financial support and bear the responsibility of raising their children on their own.

The high rates of Vesico-Vaginal Fistula (VVF) amongst young married girls is one of the reasons why child marriage is linked to wife abandonment. Sexual reproductive organs of the child brides that are not fully developed cause them to endure very prolonged labour. The relentless pressure from the baby's skull breaks the walls of the birth canal and leads to uncontrollable leakage from the bladder into the vagina. They are usually perceived as unclean and often abandoned or divorced by their spouses. In Nigeria, around 150,000 women with VVF, 80 to 90 percent of them are divorced by their husbands; in Niger Republic, VVF is the reason for 63.3 percent of all divorce cases (Tamunoimama 2012).

In many countries, young girls are married off to older men of twice their age, because their parents believe that it is the best way to ensure their daughters are protected when being placed firmly under a male's control. Influenced by negative social and religious norms, girls are married early to older men in the belief that a husband will provide a safeguard against her 'immoral' or 'inappropriate' behaviour (Senderowitz 1995). Consequently, when the girl is still young, their spouses died, leaving her with the sole responsibility on taking care her children. For some traditions, girls are not allowed to remarry and her families are also unlikely to accept her back once she has become widowed (UNICEF 2001).

Even when a child bride feels able to challenge and leave her marriage, it usually takes her years to do so. Her families will cut her off from their lives because it is believed...
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