Child Marriage: a Menace to the Society
According to global statistics, nearly 41,000 girls are forced into child marriage every day. Early, forced and child marriage is a global issue that affects both boys and girls. However, 82% of all children who get married are girls. That would mean, for every boy who gets married before adulthood 4 girls do the same.
Child marriage has a lot of disadvantages both for the individual involved and the society at large. Yet, despite being prohibited by international law, child marriage continues to be practiced in underdeveloped and developing countries around the world, and often in communities struggling with extreme poverty. Ending this practice has not been an easy feat, as there is also the aspect of cultural practices and traditions involved in it. Education however continues to be one of the tools to ending this menace.
Putting Things into Context
According to UNICEF, a child is any human being under the age of 18, unless stated otherwise by the law. And marriage is defined by most dictionaries as the legally, or formally, recognized relationship of two individuals who are married.
Whereas, child marriage refers to the formal or informal marriage of a child with or without their consent. In most cases, the boy or man is older than the girl. That goes to say that it may be between two children, or a child (mostly a girl) and an adult. Considering the definition of marriage, this begs the question: can child marriage be really considered a form of marriage?
According to the United Nations Population Fund, factors that promote and reinforce child marriage include poverty and economic survival strategies; gender inequality; sealing land or property deals, or settling disputes; control over sexuality and protecting family honour; tradition and culture; the need for family ties, in which marriage is a means of consolidating powerful relations between families; and insecurity, particularly during war, famine or epidemics.
Effects of this Menace on the Girl-child
Child marriage robs girls of their childhood, often forcing them to drop out of school, exposing them to violence – sexual, physical and emotional – and thrusting them into experiences that their young minds and bodies are not ready for, like motherhood.
Child marriage robs girls of their childhood and threatens their well-being. These girls are more likely to experience domestic violence and less likely to remain in school. They have worse economic and health outcomes than their unmarried peers, which are eventually passed down to their children, straining a country’s capacity to provide quality health and education services. Child brides often become pregnant during adolescence, when the risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth is high. The practice can also isolate girls from family and friends, taking a heavy toll on their mental health.
All of these have caused great damage to the girl who is not ripe for marriage. Early marriage gives a problem to the girl and also affects her education. Early marriage makes completing education almost impossible for girls due to lots of responsibilities placed on them. Not only will she lose her education, but she also experiences emotional adversity and health problems during early pregnancy. She should give priority to her child and her husband before herself. Can a young girl manage this huge responsibility? All these can lead to improper health care and child-bearing complications, like vesicovaginal fistula(VVF).
Role of Education in Curbing this Menace
Education has played a pivotal role in the reduction of early marriage and pregnancy. In the present times, we can see that education has enlightened many on the adverse effects of early marriage.
When girls are enrolled in schools and provided quality education, they are more likely to delay marriage and pregnancy. Hence, it should be mandatory that all children should complete their secondary school education. This will reduce the likelihood of a girl marrying before she turns 18 which is the appropriate age for a ‘non-child’ marriage.
Read more on the importance of girl-child education here
Government and non-governmental organisations should help in dedicating financial resources to girls’ education and organising programs that will directly benefit adolescent girls. Education provides them with the skills and knowledge necessary to pursue further studies or gain meaningful employment. This enhances the economic opportunities available to them.
By prioritising education, societies can break the cycle of poverty that often perpetuates early marriage and pregnancy. Higher levels of education also correlate with increased access to healthcare services, enabling young individuals to make informed choices about their reproductive health and family.
Education also goes a long way further than the walls of the classroom. There should be community-based programs that focus on enlightening families, parents and community leaders on the dangers and effects of early marriage and pregnancy. This should help widen the scope of awareness of the risk of early child marriage.
Education plays a pivotal role in reducing early child marriage and pregnancy. By equipping young individuals with knowledge, empowering them economically and promoting gender equality, education can transform lives and communities. Through education, we can work towards a future where young individuals have the freedom to make choices about their own lives, build their careers and give back to their communities.
Written by Boluwatife
For the Editorial Team, God is Love Educational Foundation