BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Marriage before the age of 18 is a reality for many young women. In many parts of the world parents encourage the marriage of their daughters while they are still children in hopes that the marriage will benefit them both financially and socially, while also relieving financial burdens on the family. In actuality, child marriage is a violation of human rights, com-promising the development of girls and often resulting in early pregnancy and social isolation, with little education and poor vocational training reinforcing the gendered nature of poverty. The right to ‘free and full’ consent to a marriage is recognized in the Universal Declaration of HumanRights – with the recognition that consent cannot be ‘free and full’ when one of the parties involved is not sufficiently mature to make an informed decision about a life partner. The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women mentions the right to protection from child marriage in article 16, which states: “The betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage...” While marriage is not considered directly in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, child marriage is linked to other rights – such as the right to express their views freely, the right to protection from all forms of abuse, and the right to be protected from harmful traditional practices – and is frequently addressed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Child marriage was also identified by the Pan-African Forum against the Sexual Exploitation of Children as a type of commercial sexual exploitation of children. Young married girls are a unique, though often invisible, group. Required to perform heavy amounts of domestic work, under pressure to demonstrate fertility, and responsible for raising children while still children themselves, married girls and child mothers face constrained decision-making and reduced life choices. Boys are also affected by child marriage but the issue impacts girls in far larger numbers and UNICEF’s Innocenti Research Centre published the digest Early Marriage: Child Spouses in 2001, exploring both the reasons behind the perpetuation of child marriage and its harmful impact. This literature suggests that many factors interact to place a child at risk of marriage. Poverty, protection of girls, family honour and the provision of stability during unstable social periods are suggested by Innocenti as significant factors in determining a girl’s risk of becoming married while still a child. Jenson and Thornton found little overall change in the average age at marriage for age cohorts born between 1950 and 1970 in most regions, as well as little change in the incidence of child marriage. Focusing primarily on Benin (Nigeria), Colombia, India and Turkey, Jenson and Thornton noted strong correlations between a woman’s age at marriage and the level of education she achieves, the age at which she gives birth to her first child and the age of her husband. Women who married at younger ages were more likely to believe that it is sometimes acceptable for a husband to beat his wife and were more likely to experience domestic violence themselves. The age gap between partners is thought to contribute to these abusive power dynamics and to increase the risk of untimely widowhood, although Westoff notes that older husbands may be better providers for the household. Awareness of reproductive health issues in developing nations is growing. Critical issues are the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS among young people; childbearing by young girls, which can lead to obstetric fistulas and death of the mother; and child marriage. OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
The objective of this study is
* To provide available empirical evidence obtained through household surveys in order to estimate the prevalence of child...
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