Child mar­riage and FGM are a threat to girls’ rights, health

Girls who marry early are more likely not to go to school and are more likely to face do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, abuse and rape, start­ing the cy­cle of dis­ad­van­tage

The Star (Kenya) - - Politics - RHODA ODHIAMBO @Od­hi­amboRhoda

Child mar­riages and fe­male gen­i­tal mu­ti­la­tion are some of the prob­lems Kenya is grap­pling with to en­sure girls’ rights are not vi­o­lated.

A re­port re­leased by Save The Chil­dren – en­ti­tled ‘Ev­ery Last Girl: Free to live, free to learn, free from harm’– has ranked coun­tries in an in­dex from the best to worst coun­try in which to be a girl, based on child mar­riage, school­ing, teen preg­nancy, ma­ter­nal deaths and num­ber of women par­lia­men­tar­i­ans.

Ev­ery seven sec­onds glob­ally, a girl aged be­low 15 years is mar­ried, the re­port states, in­di­cat­ing the scale of the threat posed by child mar­riage to ed­u­ca­tion, health and chil­dren’s safety.

The Girl’s Op­por­tu­nity In­dex ranks Kenya num­ber 97, where child mar­riage and ado­les­cent fer­til­ity are be­com­ing a wor­ry­ing trend.

“Child mar­riage starts a cy­cle of dis­ad­van­tage that de­nies girls the most ba­sic rights to learn, de­velop and be chil­dren. Girls who marry too early of­ten can’t at­tend school, and are more likely to face do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, abuse and rape. They fall preg­nant and are ex­posed to STIs, in­clud­ing HIV,” Helle Thorn­ing-Sch­midt, CEO of Save the Chil­dren In­ter­na­tional, said.

“They also bear chil­dren be­fore their bod­ies are fully pre­pared, which can have dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences on their and their ba­bies’ health.”

Unicef also re­leased a re­port en­ti­tled The Pro­file of Child Mar­riage in Africa, which showed 40 per cent of girls aged be­tween five to 14 years spend more time on do­mes­tic chores than boys.

The re­port also showed that the amount of time girls spend do­ing house work makes them miss out on op­por­tu­ni­ties, such as go­ing to school, as com­pared to boys.

Some of the vi­o­la­tions meted out on girls in Kenya are child mar­riages, FGM, and sex­ual and gen­der-based vi­o­lence.

Non-gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions ad­vo­cat­ing for the rights of women and girls in Kenya want the state to im­ple­ment strin­gent mea­sures in en­sur­ing girls’ rights are not vi­o­lated. The NGOs want girls to have the same equal op­por­tu­ni­ties as boys.

/REUTERS

A Pokot girl is held by a mem­ber of her com­mu­nity as she tries to es­cape a forced mar­riage on Novem­ber 19 last year. She was un­aware of the ar­range­ments her fa­ther had made to marry her off

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