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Child Marriage

Introduction


"The health of adolescent girls is everyone's business. We all need to step up to the plate to embrace this ambitious agenda."—Melinda Gates.


“Loving someone liberates the lover as well as the beloved. And that kind of love comes with age.” — Maya Angelou


Definition


Child marriage is a marriage or similar union, formal or informal, between a child under a certain age – typically age 18 – and an adult or another child. The vast majority of child marriages are between a girl and a man, and are rooted in gender inequality.


Although in most countries, the age of majority otherwise known as legal adulthood and marriageable age are usually designated at age 18, both vary across countries, and therefore the marriageable age may be older or younger in a given country. It is worthy to note however that where the age is set at 18 years, there are countries in which cultural traditions override legislation and many jurisdictions permit earlier marriage with parental consent or in exceptional circumstances, such as teenage pregnancy.


However, there are three terms that are different but are sometimes used interchangeably: - Child Marriage, Forced Marriage and Arranged Marriage. Child marriage is different from Forced Marriage and Arranged Marriage. Child marriage is any formal marriage or informal union where one or both people(rarely) are under 18 years old.


A Forced Marriage is where one or both people do not consent to the marriage and pressure, or abuse is used. Pressure can include threats, physical or sexual violence, and financial pressure. At this juncture, it is safe to say that most Child Marriages are Forced Marriages because a child cannot provide informed consent and Child Marriages are therefore a violation of children's rights. This is different from an Arranged Marriage, where both people have consented to the union but feel free to refuse if they want to.

Child marriages also affects boys, but to a lesser degree than girls. According to this article: - UNICEF (2015), 'A profile of child marriage in Africa', in the Central African Republic, the country where boys are most likely to be married in childhood, the levels of Child Marriage among girls are still more than twice those seen among boys.

Prevalence


The incidence of child marriage has been falling in most parts of the world. Data from UNICEF in 2018 showed that about 21 percent of young women worldwide (aged 20 to 24) were married as children; this is a 25 percent decrease from 10 years previously. The countries with the highest observed rates of child marriages (below the age of 18) were Niger, Chad, Mali, Bangladesh, Guinea, the Central African Republic, Mozambique, and Nepal, all of which had rates above 50%. Niger, Chad, Bangladesh, Mali, and Ethiopia were the countries with child marriage rates greater than 20% below the age of 15, according to 2003–2009 surveys. Each year, an estimated 12 million girls globally are being married under the age of 18.

The Historical Background


Child marriages have been common throughout history and continue to be widespread particularly in developing countries such as parts of Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, West Asia, Latin America, and Oceania. However, even in developed countries, legal exceptions still allow child marriage, including exceptions in 46 US states.


In the United States, only four states (Delaware, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania) have taken the initiative to ban child marriage with no exceptions, leaving 46 states that allow child marriage to take place in varying degrees. This is because there is no overarching federal government regulation on the issue, allowing each individual state to set their standards regarding child marriage.


Between 200 BC and 700 AD, women and men had the ‘freedom' to choose whoever they wanted to marry. Arguably, starting from the 20th century, more women started attending colleges, universities and the society realized that marriage needed maturity. This was especially in the western world.


Girl brides became younger towards the medieval period, and it became increasingly common for girls as 6 or 8 to be married as it was then known in the Indian society. Parents decided on the marriages of their children at a very early age although the daughter stayed with her parents until she reached the age of puberty.