Report on 21st Century Child Marriage

Report on 21st Century Child Marriage

Priya Patel analyses the issue of child marriage. Its causes and consequences are explored alongside the global organisations attempting to fight the problem in the 21st Century.

The enduring presence of child marriages in today’s progressive civilisation is a growing concern. One third of the world’s girls are married before the age of 18 and 1 in 9 are married before the age of 15. In 2010, 67 million women aged 20-24 around the world had been married before the age of 18 and if this trend continues 142 million girls will be married before their 18th birthday in the next decade. Countries in which child marriages predominately take place are those situated in Western and Sub-Saharan Africa as well as South Asia.

Causes for child marriages include poverty. Cultures in which a dowry has to paid to the grooms’ family by the girls’ parents generally pay less than if the girl was older. Parents may also save on expenses as there is one less person to look after in the family. Education is also a factor. Girls that have a history of poor education have very little options open to them. They face a future of struggling to obtain jobs or a way to have a sustainable future by themselves.  Other causes include tradition. Marrying off daughters at a young age is a concept that has been carried out over generations. Also boys from such cultures tend to be more valued while girls’ responsibilities to have children and take care of domestic duties are deeply rooted.

Consequences of child marriages can result in the initiation of sexual intercourse at a young age where the girl is not emotionally or physically ready. The body itself is not fully developed. It can result in a higher risk of death during childbirth and the infant itself is at a higher risk of being still born. Girls are also susceptible to violence and rape as they are young and their husbands generally older who are in the position of power.

There are various organisations dedicated to combatting child marriages and violence against women and children. Care, Girls Not Brides,  Breakthrough, Humanium, and Save the children are just a few global organisations dedicated to the cause and organisations such as Plan UK and Forward fight to do the same here in the UK. And yet, despite the efforts of so many organisations, few of them focus on child marriages regarding boys. In places such as India, in one district, a survey suggested 18.9% of boys were married off before they had reached the consented age compared with 12.5% of females. As boy marriages are overlooked very little research has been done on this issue so reasons are difficult to establish. Causes may be tradition or poverty, as the family of the son is likely to receive money in the form of a dowry. The impact is a concern as it can result in the boy having to find work in menial jobs to support a family rather than commit to his education and find a better job. In order to combat child marriages all aspects need to be taken into consideration.


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