Studyguide – Child Marriages Worldwide
With today’s world being challenged by all sorts of crises – migration movements, refugee crises, poverty, wars and ongoing conflicts – there are many types of human rights violations on the rise again. One of them is the flourishing of child marriages.
Young boys and girls are more vulnerable to child marriage with humanitarian crises taking place– with this in mind and taking into account that there are still young girls getting married merely because of gender inequality – We would love to start off this studyguide with a story that has made headlines early this summer. Onur Albayrak, a wedding photographer working in eastern Turkey, has been praised as a hero after having stopped a wedding where the bride was just 15 years old. In a situation where others would look the other way, he stood up against the groom, broke his nose and showed the world that sometimes it’s the little acts that make a big difference and raise awareness to a problem easily forgotten.
The violation of article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, marrying off minors, is an alarming tradition which is still taking place in many corners of the world: In Africa, the Middle East and South Asia the practice is still far too common. UNICEF databases show that 21% of women aged 20 to 24 were married to their spouse before reaching the age of 18. Latest numbers published state that currently approximately 12 million girls get married yearly. This would add up to more than 150 million girls marrying by 2030. Since data on boys being affected by forced marriage before reaching the age of 18 is limited, it is hard to estimate how many young boys are subjected to this practice – but it is certain that there are countries where boys being married before the age of 18 is not uncommon.
Why does child marriage happen? The reasons for implementing child marriages vary immensely – which is why it is hard to tackle. The complex issue is rooted in factors such as gender inequality, lack of education, cultural practices and traditions, poverty and economic insecurities.
There has been a number of attempts in the past looking to solve the complex and multifaceted problem of child marriage. But even with signed and ratified conventions and agreements it is a challenging goal – set in the Sustainable Development Goals - to break these pathways. Environmental factors such as economic insecurity and gender inequality need to be addressed and critical questions need to be asked. Even with the implementation of laws regarding consent and legal age to marry, enforcement is not guaranteed. An example of an area where this is be the case is India – in the state with more than one billion inhabitants child marriage is illegal (age of consent 18 / 21) however, the practice is still culturally accepted, expected and therefore very common. In some cases, brides may be as young as 4 or 5 when they become married. In India’s poorest regions, families live with less than a dollar a day: Marrying the daughter to another family might be seen as a burden less to the family – a mouth less to feed. Researches by the ICRW in Kenya and Zambia show a very similar situation. Due to economic insecurities girls decide to start relationships with boys who can provide for them at a very early age – as a consequence of lacking sexual education they usually get pregnant quite fast, which leads to them leaving their family and starting an “adult” life despite their young age.
Depending on the area in question, the reasons (poverty, fear of safety, social norms or tradition) and the path to becoming a underaged spouse may differ, but the consequences are similar. Once children have been married, a downward spiral consisting of isolation and domestic violence often takes place: Deprived of fundamental rights to health, education and safety, girls additionally face high risks of complications during child birth and being affected by HIV/AIDS – and with little economic opportunities they and their families are more likely to live in poverty.
Start your research:
Declaration of Human Rights (Article 16)
Latest numbers on Child Marriage
ICRW Research and what needs to be done to end child marriage
Sustainable Development Goals – Ending the practice of Child Marriage by 2030
List of age of consent for marriage worldwide
India’s Innocent: Secret Weddings of Child Brides
Live Ticker on India’s population growth
Impact on girls getting married at a young age
Correlation Child Marriage and HIV / AIDS
Child Marriage and Gender Inequality
Convention in the 60ies