Child marriage, particularly the forced marriage of children is much more prevalent than may be assumed. In several countries children may be married when barely of toddler age. Young girls may be forced into marriage to much older men.
The sad status of child brides
Girls of elementary school age may be married off before completing grade school. This often occurs with her parents’ blessing and may even be arranged by them. In some cases, parents do not even wait that long, marrying off their children when they are still toddlers.
Children who refuse to submit to the tradition of arranged or forced marriage may be subjected to serious consequences. In the case of a 13 year old girl who refused to comply with her parents arrangement for her to be married, ABC News reported that her parents withheld food from the girl for a period of almost two weeks to force her compliance. Her mother was quoted as saying that parents have the right to control their children. Still, Rekha Kalindi refused to give in, and has since gained world-wide attention.
Most girls do not resist the forced child marriage so strongly. Perhaps the fear of repercussions by parents or the man or his family is a reason.
Girls who marry young are known to have children earlier and have more children than girls who marry at an older age and do so voluntarily. Girls forced into marriage have a higher risk of becoming a victim of domestic violence, pregnancy-related complications and complications during childbirth, up to and including death. Yet, girls forced into marriage are pressured to begin having children as soon as possible. In the GlobalPost article, “Early marriage precludes education for young Nepalis,” it was revealed that 51% of girls in Nepal married as children, with laws against child marriage being rarely enforced.
At the age of 14, child bride Sanani, living at the home of her husband’s parents, was pressured by her in-laws to start her family. She now lives in the same mud hut with two children, with little formal education and no hope of having a better future. Sanini told the GlobalPost that she does not want her daughter to be forced into an early marriage like she was.
Because of leaving school at such an early age, child brides have very little chance of returning to school. With such little education, there is slim chance for ever becoming gainfully employed or escaping the poverty. In countries where child marriage flourishes, girls are not valued as deeply as boys, so their education, affluence, social standing and goals are not deemed as important as that of males in the culture. Due to forced child marriages in areas where females are not as valued as males, girls and women continue to live in destitute poverty, at risk for multiple health problems in cultures that perpetuate gender inequality.
Pressure may force some cultures to change their view on child marriage
Many organizations are beginning to take on the challenge of pressuring countries and cultures to end child marriage. Girls are starting to realize that there are organizations and agencies that they can turn to. The International Center for Research on Women reports that other agencies and leaders besides the ICRW are strongly advocating for change. According to ICRW, leaders such as Mary Robinson,and have recently formed an organization to raise awareness of child marriage on a global basis.
With the development of agencies and organizations that bring about awareness and take action to end the travesty of child marriage, more girls like Rekha Kalindi may very well take a stand against being forced into marriage and will seek help to forever escape the travesty of child marriage and the effect on its young victims.