It’s 2018 and frankly, we can’t believe there’s even a need for us to compile the detrimental and brutal facts of child marriages – much less debate if they should be made illegal or not.
1. A matter of ‘honour’
Most child marriages take place because of archaic notions that girls are only worthy who they will eventually marry as it brings honour to their families. The sad but harsh and true reality is that many cultures still view having daughters as a liability.
2. Higher illiteracy rates
Most girl brides are forced to give up their education to assume household responsibilities. With no resources and potential outlet to grow, they’ll be relegated to a vicious cycle of poverty. Two researches surmised based on 2006 data from Nigeria that child marriages were responsible for approximately 20 per cent of school dropouts.
3. Higher death rates
According to the World Health Organisation, globally, the second cause of death for girls between the ages of 15 and 19 come from pregnancy complications and childbirth.
4. Higher rates of HIV
Dr Yann Le Strat, a psychiatrist says, “Studies in India and Africa have shown that child marriage is known to be associated with elevated risks of HIV transmission, unwanted pregnancy and death from childbirth.” Is it any wonder, considering child brides would not have had the exposure to such knowledge especially if they are kept from an education?
5. More vulnerable to domestic violence
Think about the power play and shift that takes place in child marriages – the sort of dominance the much older husband and the girl’s in-laws would have over her. Coupled with the fact that she will probably be pulled from an education will make it harder for her to leave the abusive situation as she won’t quite know where to go or what to do with her life (a situation that plagues even educated women stuck in toxic and abusive relationships).
6. Sexual grooming may be involved
Sexual grooming essentially shapes a child into thinking that having sex with the offender is completely normal as the offender seeks to establish a ‘trusting’ relationship with the victim that could take place over the course of weeks, months, or even years. This relationship often entails the offender masquerading himself or herself as a mentor – someone the victim trusts and can look up to. The perpetrator could also form a relationship with the child’s family to lull them into a false sense of security as they trust their child with him or her.
7. Child marriage is paedophilia
Plain and simple: there is no getting around this fact. What is even more disturbing is how child marriages often masquerade themselves as wanting to ‘help’ the girl bride by portraying the ‘older husband’ as someone who will take care of her and the family. The ideology is one that is sexist and harmful because it falls back onto the archaic stereotype that the girl has no agency and no prospect for growth. Real help and empowerment come int he form of education and the sponsorship of it. If a 41-year-old man comes asking for the hand in marriage of your 11-year-old daughter, you don’t invite him into your house for tea and thank God she’s found a safe harbour who will take care of her, you get all the details and facts so you can report this paedophile to the police.