Child Marriage

The Nagle Student Series – Part Four: Brodi Duncan

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[Brodi Duncan]

Forced marriage is defined as any formal marriage or informal union where one or both of the parties are under the age of 18. Although this is the definition, there is so much more to the issue. If the child has not given genuine consent, it is a forced marriage. If the child feels as though they are being ‘owned’ through threats and abuse and are exploited for their labour, it is a forced marriage. If the child is denied the ability to leave the marriage, it is a forced marriage.

“That would never happen,” you say? Think again. Each year, 15 million girls are married before the age of 18. In the time it would take you to brush your teeth, 56 girls under the age of 18 have been forced into a marriage. If this trend continues, in 10 years 150 million girls will be married before their 18th birthday. In 50 years, figures are expected to hit 1.2 billion. That is 50 times the current population of Australia. Do you still think that it’s not a big problem? I didn’t think so.

Do you still think that it’s not a big problem?

Cases of forced marriage are most common in impoverished states in Africa, South Asia as well as the former Soviet republics with Niger found to have the highest proportion of child marriage with 76% of girls married before they’re 18. Rural areas are also more affected than urban areas. This is because rural areas are typically more impoverished and consequently, prospects for girls are more limited. Rural areas often have more traditional outlooks where girls who are unmarried have the pressure of society disapproval. Females in the poorest quintile are 2.5 times more likely to be implicated in child marriage than those living in the wealthiest quintile

The true root of the issue is gender inequality; the belief that girls and women are somehow inferior to boys and men. Although the drivers will vary from one community to the next and the practice may look different across regions and countries, even within the same country. Poverty, lack of education, cultural practices, and insecurity are also common reasons for the rises in these horrifying statistics. As well as this a lack of strong, effective legislation protecting girls or creating a minimum age of marriage is a key factor. However, even when there are laws in place, law enforcement may not reach into rural areas or may not have the training to deal with cases of forced or underage marriage.

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