Child Marriage: Breaking the Tradition
Take a moment to think back when you were a child—say, at 10 or 11 years old. What were you preoccupied with? Chances are your concerns were about homework, enjoying fun stuff with friends, spending time with family, doing household chores and basically discovering things around you. Chances are marriage and having children were the last things on your mind! But what if we tell you that some girls around the world are getting married as early as eight years old?
Child marriage, where girls and boys are married below the age of 18, has been a long-standing tradition in many parts of the world. Unfortunately, it is also an issue that doesn’t receive enough attention. It has been estimated that approximately 15 million girls worldwide are being forced into marriage before they are 18. Even though child marriage happens to boys in some countries, there is no doubt that girls make up the vast majority of children affected by this practice.
Countries with the highest number of child marriages include: Niger, Central African Republic, Chad, India, Bangladesh and more. In these places, marrying off children before they reach maturity has been a tradition that is rarely questioned by its followers, for fear of being excluded from the community.
Why Child Marriage Happens
Aside from the fact that it has been an enduring community tradition, child marriage also happens due to several other reasons. One of these reasons is the fact that daughters are seen as burdens who cannot help the family as much as a son can.
Poverty is another reason behind child marriage. A young daughter married off is one less child to feed. In many cultures, child marriages also come with a “dowry”—a particular amount of money paid by the groom to the child bride’s family. Naturally, any source of income is welcomed by a poor family.
The Girls Not Brides Movement
Girls Not Brides is a partnership of non-governmental organisations who share the same vision: to end child marriage and allow young girls to enjoy their rights to childhood, education, health and choice. Girls Not Brides provides vocational training for girls who wish to learn new skills. The partnership also provides groups and other platforms where both girls and boys can have their voices heard and even have dialogues with government officials and community leaders.
Girls Not Brides also works to raise awareness among communities about the negative impact of child marriage. When people’s mind-sets are changed, their traditions can change too. Lastly, Girls Not Brides also work towards the establishment of laws and government policies that will protect young girls, such as setting 18 as the minimum legal age for marriage.