Marriage, supposedly one of the most happiest times of someones life. A breadth of a new chapter. A new beginning. Though, as we sit quite comfortably with masses of opportunity at our feet and education as we will and dictate, there are 15 million child brides yearly. Almost always, they are forced into marriages which not only robs them of their childhood, but deprives them of their human right of consent.
The majority of forced/child marriages are prevalent across Africa and South Asia and often as a result of the gender equality gap common in these cultures which means woman can be seen as more of a burden and more open to sexual harassment for example, and therefore married off early and against her will to prevent anything which can bring ‘shame’ or ruin the ‘honour’ of the family. This deprives them of their chance of education and basically puts them in a dangerous cycle whereby their children (often had early, despite their bodies not being sexually mature) can be put in the same situation – socially unstable, as well as deprived of an education which can put them into poverty. This cycle of being married off young means woman cannot complete or even have an education at all, and therefore fail to find a job which allows them to be economically stable. Far too often, the situation is that due to the marriage being unwanted in most cases, it can end in a few years following issues such as domestic violence, and general differences which makes the marriage incompatible in the first place, and in cases where they are married off to cousins/someone abroad, after gaining citizenship there is an immediate divorce, and the woman usually has to take the blame for it – is there any more of an evil way to dehumanize her and who she is?
I recently watched a documentary regarding British children born to immigrant parents and there have been hundreds and hundreds of girls in the past years who will be tricked and taken abroad to be forced to marry a man of their choice – often to a much older person or a cousin – despite only just hitting the legal age of marriage for the UK. This is typically done for the same reasons as child/teenage marriage, though often these British born woman (or woman of any nationality) are seen as commodities in that moment, and stripped of their right to say no and often threatened and bullied psychologically into accepting. Their passports here are all that is valued usually and again, the marriages typically don’t last often and are more like a easy pathway for the man to become a citizen of the country the girl is resident to. This makes me sick, as it completely devalues the girl as a individual whose citizenship is merely valued – not her. Marriages like this may be to benefit the family economically and socially, again devaluing her and silencing who she wishes to become. This is not to be confused with arranged marriages – still very common, however it gives both parties the right to refuse or accept, and are welcomed by some brides/grooms to be. The point is however, neither party should NEVER feel pressured or forced to accept a marriage that they do not want.
There are laws and minimum ages set in many of the countries that have high rates of child/forced marriage though law enforcement is hard to maintain and therefore thousands of them go ahead with no regards for the law. This is essentially re-enforcing gender equality in the sense that woman are culturally seen as to be kept ‘weakened’, with disregard for their education or future plans and so marriage is seen as the only option to preserve honour and prevent immorality which is deeply exaggerated. This is sparking more in poverty, where families are finding it hard to provide for her. However, no matter how we put it, it demeans them of their right of choice and right to decide their future and must be abandoned. Forced marriages are NEVER ok.
Perhaps with more opportunities for education for woman and increased emphasis on the benefits of extending the age in which they get married, such as better stability for their future children and themselves economically, socially and even culturally if attitudes can change. Because with education, can we not only benefit ourselves, but change and mould the opinions of the future towards this practice, and much, much more….. we can change the world….
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