In a shocking development, Bangladesh recently indicated it would legally allow child marriages in ‘special cases’ as reported by the Guardian. Child brides face a greater risk of rape, domestic violence and forced pregnancies.
A 16 year old girl from Hyderabad, India who was forced to marry a man 20 years older and returned home after being sexually assaulted daily and unable to appear for class 10 exams was served a legal notice for not completing her duties as a wife, instead of severely punishing the rapists. Recently a 61 year old Muslim cleric was charged in Melbourne for sexual penetration of a 16 year old on the basis of a DVD of the ceremony conducted in the mosque. Last year a 13 year old girl died of internal injuries merely 4 days after her wedding to a man twice her age in Yemen. Outmoded laws and religious-cultural ideologies that put girls sexual rights in peril are much to blame.
According to this report by Save the Children, Every Last Girl: Free to live, free to learn, free from harm,has ranked countries in an index according to child marriage, schooling, teen pregnancy, maternal deaths and number of female MPs. Rwanda tops the table with 64% followed by Bolivia and Cuba. India has the highest number of child marriages of any country, with 47% of girls married under 18 – around 24.6 million. Whilst one girl under 15 is married every seven seconds, one girl under 18 is married every two seconds. Girls in Sierra Leone are among the most likely in the world to be child mothers. Teenage girls account for 40% of all maternal deaths in the country.Girls are being forced to turn to transaction sex as an economic coping strategy. Girls suffer most during crises such as the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone where schools shutting down led to an estimated 14,000 teen pregnancies.
The international community has pledged to end child marriage by 2030 but if current trends continue, the total number of women married in childhood will grow from more than 700 million today to around 950 million by 2030, and to 1.2 billion by 2050. The right course of action would be to challenge discriminatory laws, policies, norms and practices and building enabling environments to transform children’s lives. However with poor countries having the worst records, the issue is more about economic empowerment and education than anything else.
Here is how you can help right now:
- Walk Free: Join the fight against forced child marriage here
- Girls not brides: a partnership of 650 organisations: Donate now
- Help end child marriage in Sudan: Contribute
- Join forces with these 16 organisations named here
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