When a nation turns a child into a bride, it turns its future into a hell. Irrespective of the differences in culture, language, ethnicity, religion and geographical position, child marriage has become a global problem, which is practised in different parts of the world. From Niger, Bangladesh to Iraq, child marriage is a common practice in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and even in Europe. While some might argue that child marriage is an integral part of their culture and religion, there is little doubt that the practice clearly indicates global gender inequalities, violence against women and poverty, to say the least.
With Niger and Bangladesh occupy the topmost positions in the child marriage menace globally, as many as over 700 million women were victims of child marriage as children, according to the UNO research. That says much how magnitude the child marriage problem is. Generally, in countries where child marriage is being practised, it is believed that child marriage to an older man offers the girl protection by the older husband. But that assumption seems not to be the whole story. Often, these young girls are victims of violence – physically, mentally, sexually and otherwise – in the hands of their much older husbands who see their baby wives as their properties and treat them as slaves, without fear of losing them. Furthermore, the girl brides face life-threatening health problems during and after pregnancy because their bodies are still biologically too young to carry a baby.
From the economic point of view, many a married girl forfeits perusing their academic goals. The result is that the girls automatically end up being potential mothers and financially and emotionally dependent on their husbands. Nor can they contribute economically much to society.
Although some might argue that not all child marriages constitute slavery, if the girl in question is given freedom, and she is not exploited by the husband. That argument loses its strength when examined through the prism of maturity, having in mind that the child brides are generally too young to make a choice in life. As such, they should not have been forced into marriage at that ripe age, when they still cannot decide for themselves what they want in life.
Many experts have argued that banning marriage for girls under the age of 18 is a good step in the right direction if we want to reduce girl marriage around the world. At least at the age of 18, it is generally believed that one is mature enough to take decisions in their lives.
Happily, according to the latest statistics from the UNICEF, child marriage is decreasing globally with the percentage of women married before the age of 18 descending from 33% to 26% between 1985 and 2010. This is good news. But more needs to be done to create awareness of the danger of child marriage, as well as end the practice.
Regardless, the one thing is sure: When a nation turns a child into a bride, it turns its future into a hell.