Adolescence. The stage in our life where we grow and discover so much more; we encounter new people, novel experiences and focus our lives on our deepest desires. Now, imagine it being snatched from your hands. Completely robbed. Instead, the weight of a new family's expectations and commitments knocks you to the ground. Over 650 million women worldwide have experienced it—married against their will when under the age of 18.
To most, it is nothing short of an awful crime; but to some, it is mere culture and tradition. With its origins rooted in ancient history, child marriage was once utilized as a weapon to keep women from being kidnapped by foreign sovereigns; however, like many topics, this was not the only reason. Child marriage may typically take place due to a number of reasons, the majority of which raises concerns about more well-known global issues. For most families, child marriage is a solution. A solution to poverty and the lack of government aid. For parents in financially risky situations or simply facing hardships in supplementing their income, marrying their daughters off early may be their only option to survive. On the other hand, these women and girls are degraded and seen as a financial burden to which it is sometimes a sign of dominance and strengthening social relationships with other members of their extended family (demeaning these women to be seen as an asset- that needs to be sold off).
It is truly a global issue directly related to gender inequality and the ingrained attitude that women and girls are inferior to men and boys—worsening through the years because of heightening poverty rates, detrimental social norms, and the lack of education. Apart from this, a significant player in the practice is the excruciatingly biased patriarchal systems - run by men - which has allowed this tradition of invalidating and dishonouring womens’ choices for several generations.
Not only are these women silenced, but they are also left with physical and psychological scars for the rest of their lives. They are unaware of the obvious crimes done against them because it demands young ladies who are mentally naïve to the world and its difficulties to be considered hugely liable. As a result, their mental health deteriorates, and they come to believe that this is the norm for everyone on the globe. Similarly, young married women are more likely to contract HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases; with this, these women are thought to have earlier pregnancies, disregarded difficulties during pregnancy and labour, and usually, become victims of domestic violence
The issue of child marriage is a major one. It is one that has been disregarded for too long. Child marriage is not exclusive to just females, as UNICEF has also concluded that a current estimate of over 115 million boys have been married off for similar reasons before the legal age of 18 – with an estimated 23 million males married before the age of 15. While the media usually focuses on child brides, a shocking number of young boys have also been pressurized into this sickening practice; with all of them facing the same fates as their tragic female counterparts.
Despite a drop in child marriages, children all across the world are being confined in this terrible manner. As the world becomes more aware, understanding of this subject should be considerably raised and, as a result, addressed. The international community may also realize that addressing this brings to light other serious issues, such as poverty, corruption, and empowerment.
~ Aanisha Fathima ~