Up to 100 mil­lion girls un­pro­tected against child mar­riage

Iran Daily - - Society -

Over 20,000 girls are mar­ried be­fore the age of 18 ev­ery day around the world as coun­tries con­tinue to lack le­gal pro­tec­tions, ac­cord­ing to a new study.

Con­cerned over the lack of progress, Save the Chil­dren and the World Bank teamed up to re­search child mar­riage laws around the world and found a dis­mal pic­ture, Ip­snews noted.

Glob­ally, even in coun­tries that re­strict the prac­tice, al­most eight mil­lion girls are mar­ried il­le­gally un­der the age of 18 each year, mak­ing up 60 per­cent of child mar­riages.

“It is such a crit­i­cal is­sue for young girls around the world…but also for her fu­ture fam­ily and health of her chil­dren later as well,” said Pres­i­dent and CEO of Save the Chil­dren Carolyn Miles.

Mar­riage often has ir­re­versible im­pacts on child brides who are at greater risk of poor health out­comes, liv­ing in poverty, and drop­ping out of school.

In fact, loss of ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion ap­pears to be both a cause and con­se­quence of child mar­riage.

Around the world, 32 mil­lion pri­mary school and 29 mil­lion lower-sec­ondary school-aged girls are out of school. Such girls are more likely to be mar­ried as chil­dren, Miles noted.

“For girls, be­ing in school is a pro­tec­tive mech­a­nism re­ally,” she said.

Girls who marry also often forced to leave school, and many find it dif­fi­cult to re­turn af­ter mar­riage due to so­cial pres­sure, do­mes­tic re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, and even gov­ern­ment poli­cies.

In Tan­za­nia, schools are al­lowed to ex­pel or ex­clude stu­dents who are mar­ried or be­come preg­nant.

By un­der­min­ing their ba­sic rights to ed­u­ca­tion, girls’ life op­por­tu­ni­ties be­come lim­ited, cre­at­ing a domino ef­fect that im­pacts the well-be­ing of so­ci­eties at large.

Some na­tions have made progress to­wards end­ing child mar­riage, in­clud­ing Mex­ico, Nepal, and Zim­babwe, all of which ei­ther raised the min­i­mum age for mar­riage or elim­i­nated ex­cep­tions to the prac­tice.

How­ever, many coun­tries still al­low girls to be mar­ried be­fore 18 with parental or ju­di­cial con­sent while oth­ers still re­tain a lower le­gal age for mar­riage.

Bangladesh, for ex­am­ple, re­cently passed a law to al­low girls below 18 to be mar­ried in ‘spe­cial cases’, set­ting back progress to­wards end­ing child mar­riage.

While sto­ries of child mar­riage are com­monly as­so­ci­ated with the Global South, coun­tries like the US are also guilty of the prac­tice.

Across all 50 states, mar­riage be­fore the age of 18 has re­mained le­gal as some lack any min­i­mum mar­i­tal age while oth­ers al­low ex­cep­tions such as parental and ju­di­cial con­sent.

Most re­cently, New Hamp­shire re­jected a bill to in­crease the age of mar­riage from 13 to 18 while New Jersey ve­toed a ban on mar­riage un­der the age of 18.

When con­sid­er­ing parental and ju­di­cial ex­cep­tions, Save the Chil­dren and the World Bank found that close to 100 mil­lion girls around the world are not legally pro­tected against child mar­riage.

The or­ga­ni­za­tions also found that twothirds of all child mar­riages take place even in coun­tries where the prac­tice is banned, in­di­cat­ing a lack of en­force­ment of mar­riage laws.

Bangladesh, de­spite hav­ing set a min­i­mum age of 18, has one of the high­est rates of child mar­riage in the world with 65 per­cent of girls mar­ried be­fore the age of 18.

West and Cen­tral Africa sees 1.7 mil­lion il­le­gal child mar­riages ev­ery year, mak­ing it one of the high­est pro­por­tions glob­ally.

Le­gal re­forms alone are there­fore not enough to end the harm­ful prac­tice, Miles said.

“It’s about try­ing to change the lo­cal cus­toms or be­lief that it’s okay for a girl to be mar­ried,” she noted.

“Yes, we need laws and yes, we need laws that aren’t go­ing to be cir­cum­vented, but we also need to change be­liefs and these un­der­ly­ing is­sues,” Miles con­tin­ued.

Among such laws is a le­gal age of 18 for mar­riage and the elim­i­na­tion of parental and ju­di­cial ex­cep­tions.

The re­port also high­lighted the need for coun­tries to adopt clear in­ter­ven­tions to de­lay mar­riage and to in­crease in­vest­ment in the poor­est and most marginal­ized girls in ar­eas such as safe, ac­ces­si­ble, af­ford­able, and qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion.

Ef­forts are also needed to ad­dress dis­crim­i­na­tion and so­cial norms that pre­vent girls from at­tend­ing school and limit their fu­ture op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“In­vest­ing in such in­ter­ven­tions, doc­u­ment­ing their im­pacts, and im­ple­ment­ing a broad range of gen­der trans­for­ma­tive poli­cies will all be key to en­sur­ing a bet­ter fu­ture both for girls and coun­tries as a whole,” the re­port con­cluded.

The glob­ally adopted Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDGS) rec­og­nizes the harm­ful prac­tice and in­cludes a tar­get to elim­i­nate child mar­riage by 2030.

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