Child betrothal or child marriage is among the most unfortunate customs that is being practiced across the globe even today. Childhood comprises cherishable days, when tension only means tomorrow’s exam, the only liability should be homework and the only boundary was instruction sets from parents and teachers. At such a tender and innocent age, a child is made to experience responsibilities and abuses of early marriage.Child marriages may depend upon the socio-economic status of the family. The aristocracy of some cultures, as in the European feudal era tended to use child marriage as a method to secure political ties. Families were able to cement political and/or financial ties by having their children marry. It’s like a contract and breaking of a betrothal can have serious consequences both for the families and for the betrothed individuals themselves.
In Arab and Altaic societies, arranged marriages were and are common. Children are often married to create a period for the spouses to know each other before consummating marriage. Feelings of closeness and loyalty were encouraged during these early years or months. Elsewhere, daughters are considered a liability on to the shoulders of the family.
In Niger and Chad, over 70% of girls are married before the age of 18 as per ICRW (2010).
Percentage of women aged 20-24 who were married/in union before the age of 18 were 74.5% in Niger by ICRW (2010).
All across the world, if present trends continue, 100 million girls will be forced to marry as children over the next decade. That’s 25,000 girls married every day for the next 10 years. Isn’t it a huge number of girls sacrificing their aspirations?
Child marriage is a fundamental violation of human rights. Many girls and of course few boys too, are married without their free and full consent. Ideally, 18 years has been established as the legal age of consent to marriage. Child marriage is directly related with no or low levels of schooling for girls. In West and Central Africa, girls with three or fewer years of schooling are five times more likely than girls with eight or more years of schooling to marry before age 18. Poverty leads many families to withdraw their daughters from school and arrange marriage for them at a young age. These girls are denied the proven benefits of education, which include improved health, lower fertility, and increased economic productivity.
Child marriage, in many instances, marks an abrupt transition into sexual relations with a husband who is considerably older and undesired. The younger a bride is, the larger the age difference between her and her spouse. In some settings it appears that the younger a girl is when she gets married, the less say she has in the choice of her husband.
Then comes, intense pressure by husband’s family to become pregnant. First births carry special risks for both mother and child. The vast majority of births to adolescent girls are first births that occur within marriage. The foremost risk first births carry is prolonged or obstructed labor, which can be hazardous to health of mother. First births also have elevated risks of infant mortality. Globally, adolescent mothers tend to be poorer, less educated, and less adequately nourished than older mothers; they also face greater social disadvantage. Child marriage may put girls at increased risk of HIV infection compared to unmarried sexually active girls. Married girls have sex more often, have more unprotected sex, and have partners who are more likely to be HIV-positive because of their older age.
In this custom laden society, what did a woman or a girl child fetch? Neither freedom of movement nor freedom of speech. Everyone who has taken birth on this earth inherits certain fundamental rights then why are these rights being violated ruthlessly in case of girls.
Written by Aakshi Kalra