Child Marriage: A Form of Child Abuse

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“Child marriage is a violation of human rights, compromising girls’ development and often resulting in early pregnancy and social isolation, with little education and poor vocational training reinforcing the gendered nature of poverty,” states the Unicef website childinfo.org. “The right to 'free and full' consent to a marriage is recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – 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 September 9th article 8-year-old Yemeni child dies at hands of 40-year-old husband on wedding night, tells the story of an eight year-old child bride who died in Yemen on her wedding night after suffering internal injuries due to sexual trauma. Her husband was five times her age.

The article states that "According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), between 2011 and 2020, more than 140 million girls will become child brides. Furthermore, of the 140 million girls who will marry before the age of 18, 50 million will be under the age of 15."

Unicef points to evidence that shows girls who marry early:

  • often abandon formal education and become pregnant.
  • have increased mortality related to pregnancy and childbirth
  • have an increased risk that their infant will in its first year of life, or, even if the child survives, he or she is more likely to suffer from low birth weight, under nutrition and late physical and cognitive development
  • are often separated from family and friends and lack freedom to participate in community activities, which can all have major consequences on girls’ mental and physical well-being

Unicef states, “Where prevalent, child marriage functions as a social norm. Marrying girls under 18 years old is rooted in gender discrimination, encouraging premature and continuous child bearing and giving preference to boys’ education. Child marriage is also a strategy for economic survival as families marry off their daughters at an early age to reduce their economic burden.”

How can we help end the abuse that is child marriage? Support programs, like those of organizations like the CRC’s World Renew, that :

  • empower girls by building their skills and enhancing their social assets
  • improve girls’ access to quality formal education  
  • work with communities to transform the social norms that encourage child marriage
  • enhance the economic situation of girls and their families
  • support policy and legislation that will prevent child marriage
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