Child marriage is a cause very dear to my heart and in my opinion; it is the greatest human rights violation. I have heard stories, watched many interviews, read many articles, wrote many articles and interviewed people who witnessed first hand the hell young victims go through.
A few months ago I met this elderly woman who lives in my community, she was waiting for the bus and I stopped to offer her a ride. We struck up a conversation and then a friendship. One day I invited her to an independent feature about girls forced into marriage. On our way home she was quiet, and then she opened up to me that she too was sold into marriage. She was from a foreign country and was given as a bride at the age of 6. Coincidence? Before that day I had never told her my thoughts on child marriage, it never came up.
So what is child marriage? Child marriage is when a girl, sometimes as young as 8-years-old is forced into marriage, usually to a much older man. In many instances she is the 3rd, 4th, or 5th wife. She is expected to perform wifely duties as if she were an adult. She no longer has access to school and is usually confined to the home.
Some people use poverty, culture or religion as an excuse for this practice. In some cases it is about ignorance. Parents who offer their daughters up for early marriage, usually believe that they are protecting their daughters and saving them from a life of poverty—when in fact it is the opposite. I have yet to read a story or interview someone who was married as a child and lived happily ever after. Usually the story is the same—the husband, the in-laws, or the other wives abuse the new bride, physically, mentally and sexually. My elderly friend was no exception. What she told me broke my heart in ways I couldn’t even imagine.
Child brides or “death brides” as they are sometimes called, always get pregnant before their bodies are fully developed; resulting in their death or the death of their baby, or in some cases the death of both mother and child. If they survive some end up with a condition called fistula. Fistula is a childbirth injury caused by prolonged obstructed labor, where holes are created between the vaginal wall and the bladder, and/or holes created between the vaginal wall and the rectum. (Source: UNFPA http://www.unfpa.org/public/ )
Want to know the really scary part? 142 million girls will be married as children by 2020. (Source: GirlsNotBrides.org). 142 million lives wasted. 142 million girls will lose their childhood, their innocence, will be denied education and will live in servitude.
According to UNICEF the countries with the highest occurrences of child marriage are: Africa, Southern Asia and India. There are instances of child marriage happening right here in the US and in the UK so it’s not only in developing countries. http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/06/23/o.child.brides.stories/index.html
I first heard about child marriage one evening while browsing through my Facebook page. I saw an article from the Daily Mail about child marriage. At first blush I thought, Henry VIII betrothed his daughter, Lady Mary to the Dauphin of France both at age of 6, and they would be married at the appropriate age.
Nothing prepared me for the horror story I read. The child featured was married at the age of 5 to a 40-year-old man. She was about 10 when she finally divorced him and told how she hid from him on her wedding night. To say that I was greatly upset would be the understatement of the year.
A week of sleepless nights kept me thinking about that little girl and all the little girls we hadn’t heard about. So I started researching, which led me to get involved. I found out that people need to be educated on this issue for the laws to change. The more people talk about it and bring it to light the more pressure is placed on governments to make it a priority.
That was the reason I started my blog Plain Talk Bad Manners http://www.plaintalkbm.com/.
It started off as a side project where I would post articles that didn’t get the attention it deserved, and then it took off. People from different organizations started contacting me and they supported my efforts and welcomed the spotlight.
One author in particular contacted me. His name is Gavin Weston. He wrote a novel called Harmattan. It told the story of a 10-year-old girl forced to marry a 60-year-old man. I read it and cried for days. Even to this day, when I think about some of the scenes I get choked up. I interviewed Mr. Weston and found out that part of the story was true! He worked with an NGO several years ago and witnessed some of the events first hand. He became an ambassador for the organization Foundation for Women’s Health, Research and Development (FORWARD), and introduced me to a whole other world of information.
Every Monday my website is dedicated to all things child marriage. I had the pleasure of interviewing Armstrong Ukwuoma Esq., a legal Practitioner in Nigeria, on the state of child marriage in that country. It’s a 4 to 5 part series that is really getting conversations going. So many people who had no idea that this practice existed have stepped up and chimed in and are helping spread the word.
If you want to learn more about child marriage you can check out my website: http://www.plaintalkbm.com/
Visit: Girls Not Brides: http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/
Plus there are several other organizations listed on my website.
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