The Harm in Child Marriage

Rozina was forced into an early marriage at the age of 13 by her parents because of poverty. Now she has a 2 month baby girl. Photo: ©2011 Suzy Sainovski/World Vision

In Bangladesh, Rozina was forced into an early marriage at the age of 13 by her parents because of poverty. Now she has a 2 month baby girl.
Photo: ©2011 Suzy Sainovski/World Vision

I have written about the detrimental effects of child marriage as I am a strong advocate against forced child marriage. I believe that child marriage interlinks with other gender inequality issues such as maternal health and lack of access to education for girls. According to the organization, Girls Not Brides, in the developing world, one in seven girls is married before her 15th birthday and some child brides are as young as eight or nine. However, combating the issue of child marriage is tricky because early marriage is often due to both traditional norms and immense poverty. In my opinion, forcing a girl to marry before she is ready is an infringement on basic human rights and should be on feminist activist’s agendas.

When girls are forced to marry young, they are often taken out of school. Denying girls the right to attend school denies them their right to better themselves, their families and their communities. If girls were able to put off marriage and stay in school, they could learn skills that will help them uplift themselves out of poverty. Yet, over sixty percent of children who were married early have no formal education. Poverty is also a key factor in this discussion because often, it is cheaper for families to marry off their daughters then to keep her under their care. Though this may seem radical in a western mindset, but for some marrying their daughters off is one of the means of surviving. More than half of the girls in Bangladesh, Mali, Mozambique and Niger are married before 18 and in these same countries, more than 75 percent of people live on less than 2 dollars a day.*

Evidence shows that girls who marry early often become pregnant early. Maternal deaths related to childhood pregnancy are an important component of mortality for girls aged 15-19 worldwide and are accounting for 70,000 deaths each year. For girls in this age range, pregnancy is the leading cause of death.* Since these statistics are so drastic, I feel there should be a stronger international cry to end child marriages. Girls younger than 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth then women in their 20s. This can be attributed to the fact that girl’s bodies are not yet developed when they are becoming pregnant. An obstetric fistula is a complication due to obstructed labor causing damage to a girl’s birth canal. Because girls bodies are still developing before they are 18 they are more likely to have a birthing complication such as a fistula if they marry and become pregnant as children.

Though it is hard for me to imagine what my life would be like if I were married off and living in poverty, I can see the impact child marriages has on girls across borders. I think it is important for women rights activists and transnational feminist to be aware of these issues and how they are effecting girls worldwide because these statics show the harm in child marriages.

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