Breaking the Bondage of Child Marriage
Politics and Activism

Breaking the Bondage of Child Marriage

The world can work together to end this human rights violation in a generation.​

169
Mashable

Every year, 15 million girls are married before the age of 18. That is 28 girls every minute. One every two seconds. Child marriage is a truly global problem that cuts across countries, cultures, religions and ethnicities. Child brides can be found in every region in the world, from the Middle East to Europe, South Asia to Latin America. Over seven hundred million women who are alive today were married off when they were children. And at the current rates, an additional 1.2 billion girls will be married by 2050. When children, particularly young girls, are married off too soon, their personal development and well-being are put in danger. With more young people on our planet than ever before, child marriage is a human rights violation that we must end to achieve a fair and just future for all.

Child brides are often left disempowered, dependent on their husbands and deprived of their fundamental rights to health, education and safety. Because they are neither physically nor emotionally ready to become wives and mothers, child brides are at a greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications during childbirth, becoming infected with HIV/AIDS and suffering from instances of domestic violence. With little access to education and economic opportunities, these women and their families are more likely to live in poverty.

Globally, the rates of child marriage are on a gradual decline. The growing commitment to address the issue of child marriage is apparent in the Sustainable Development Goals, as set forth by the United Nations. However, there are urgent reasons to double our efforts immediately.

1. Child marriage violates human rights and is illegal.

In many countries, child marriage is prohibited. But the existing laws often go unenforced or they provide exceptions for parental consent and customary laws. Child marriage seriously affects women’s rights to health, education, equality, non-discrimination and freedom from exploitation and violence. In some cases, child marriage could even be considered slavery. When children are bought for marriage through a dowry system or when they are trafficked into forced marriages, they are technically being sex trafficked according to international law. Thus, child marriage reinforces gender inequality by jeopardizing the human rights of women and girls. It also hinders the United Nations from being able to achieve Sustainable Development Goal Number Five: to empower all women and girls.

2. Child marriage perpetuates poverty.

Married girls often leave school early and thus, lack the skills they need to help lift their families out of poverty. Nations will feel the impact of a system that undervalues the contributions of young women. Child marriage drains countries of the innovation and potential of young women that could enable the nations to thrive. If the international community does not begin to address child marriage, it will fail to achieve Sustainable Development Goal Number One: reduce global poverty.

3. The longer we wait, the bigger the problem will become.

Millions of girls and women around the world already suffer from the consequences of child marriage. If we do not act now, the total number of women who are married as children will continue to grow and cause devastating consequences for girls, their families and their countries.

4. Progress is possible.

There are so many cultural and economic factors that play into the issue of child marriage that make it hard to determine a single, simple solution. But by recognizing and addressing the issues at hand, the world can work together to end child marriage in a generation.

Many people in the developed world ask themselves: Why does child marriage still happen? Child marriage is a traditional practice that in many places happens simply because it has happened for generations. In many communities where child marriage is practiced, girls are not valued as much as boys—they are seen as a burden. Many families will give away a daughter in marriage to reduce expenses by ensuring they have one less person to feed, clothe and educate.

For many girls around the world, schools are inaccessible because parents don’t see the value of education for their daughters. With few alternatives available to them, parents often see marriage as the best option. Girls tend to drop out of school before or shortly after marriage because their new role of wife often comes with new expectations, such as taking care of the home, the children and the extended family.

When a girl drops out of school, she is denied her right to an education and the ability to develop the skills needed to live a fulfilling life where she can earn an income and actively contribute to her community.

Many parents marry off their young daughters because they feel it is in her best interest. They believe that early marriage will ensure her safety in areas where girls are at high risk of physical or sexual assault. These concerns are legitimate; the dangers and risks that girls face in many countries are serious and the threat of sexual violence increases during times of conflict and instability. During these challenging times, families are often forced to make difficult decisions. For some parents, marriage is seen as a form of protection for their daughters, as well as a way to alleviate the economic burden.

Unfortunately, child marriage actually puts girls and women at a higher risk of sexual, physical and psychological violence throughout their lives. Girls who are married before 18 are more likely to experience domestic abuse and to report that their first sexual experience was forced. Child brides are rarely able to negotiate safe and consensual sex with their husbands. Forced sexual experiences can affect the mental health of girls for years to come. They are also more likely to believe that a man is justified in beating his wife than women who marry later in life.


Child marriage often has devastating consequences on a girl’s health. It encourages the initiation of sexual activity at an age when girls’ bodies are still developing and when they know little about their sexual and reproductive health. Child brides face higher risks of death in childbirth and are particularly vulnerable to pregnancy-related injuries. Once married, girls face intense social pressure to prove their fertility. As a result, they are more likely to experience frequent and early pregnancies, which may cause a range of long-term health complications and, in some cases, death.

In recent years, child marriage has become a more prominent issue on international developmental agendas. Today, we have a unique opportunity to act on this momentum and accelerate our efforts to help change the lives of girls and young women all over the world. One of the biggest challenges that the international community will face will be to change parents’ attitudes. They will likely ask: Why girls? Why is it so crucial that we invest in their futures?

To that, we retort that this is the largest international girl generation in history, which means that we have the biggest opportunity to change the world. If girls are given a chance to stay in school, to get access to the proper health services and to delay marriage and childbirth, then their families, communities and countries will all see benefits. Ending child marriage will help create stronger global economies. Ending child marriage will help break the cycle of global poverty. Ending child marriage will help unleash young girl’s' full potential to shape humanity’s future.

There has never been a better time to act. Together, let’s put an end to child marriage.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

I was never really big on cocktails. Tequila soda is always a go-to drink for me because of its simplicity and, to be honest, lack of extra calories from mixers chock-full of sugar, chemicals, and other unknown ingredients. I like tequila, and like to be able to really savor it.

This all changed when, a couple of years ago, a friend of mine made me a margarita from scratch — no funky mixers involved — and it tasted incredible. It was light, refreshing, and complemented the tequila without overpowering it.

Keep Reading... Show less

I was blessed with thick, full hair up until my late teens. At the time, I cursed my hairiness — this was before full eyebrows became trendy or cool, and were instead a point of bullying many of my fellow full-browed teens can relate to.

Later in my 20s, hormonal stability was something I was thankful for, though a major side effect ended up being hair loss — on my head, lashes, and brows. I now find my filling in my brows on an almost daily basis. As much as I enjoy toying with and testing out different brow-filling products, it'll never be quite the same as being able to have "I woke up like this" full, Gigi Hadid-esque brows.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

May Is Mental Health Awareness Month, A Reminder We Need Even More In Quarantine

You're going through something brand new — that's worth talking about.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This isn't new to 2020, but oh man, if we ever needed a reminder about the importance of mental health, now is the time. With different states all over the place in regard to stay-at-home orders, phased reopenings, and a "new normal," we're experiencing conflict, fear, changes, and unknowns that can easily trigger mental struggles we already have or spark feelings we've never had before. Yes, May is always Mental Health Awareness Month, but in quarantine, that need for positive mental health is taken to a whole new level.

Keep Reading... Show less
Netflix

Everyone is LOVING "Outer Banks," as you've probably heard. And if you haven't caught the hype for the show yet, these articles will definitely give you a taste of what you're missing.

If you already have seen and fallen in love with the teen heartthrob crew, you need to get on board with some of these theories for season two!

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

These 11 Face Masks On Etsy Support Small Businesses While Fighting The Spread Of Coronavirus

We're staying safe as states start lifting lockdown guidelines.

I, like most people who have had the luxury of being able to stay at home during this time, haven't spent much time outdoors at all. But when I do brave the great outdoors for a walk or to get to the grocery store, you won't find me without a mask.

My family and I were lucky enough to have family friends who were sewing some and had extras to give to us, but most of my friends and loved ones outside my immediate family have had to order some (or make a makeshift one out of scarves or bandanas).

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

13 Reasons We're Using Quarantine As The Ultimate Excuse For Online Shopping This Month

The one thing we haven't distanced from is our bank account.

Throughout quarantine, I've been FaceTiming most of my friends in a full turtleneck or the go-to cozy sweater I keep wrapped around the chair in my room. Either way, I always have tea in my hands to keep myself warm — till this past week.

For most of the country who hasn't had the luck of quarantining in 90-degree weather on their family's lake house or with a backyard pool, things began to change this month. Our favorite shows came out with summer seasons, the sun came out, and we started spending more time outside.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments