Take yourself back to when you were 11 years old. Imagine on a warm summer’s morning, your mum beckons for you to come over. She dresses you up in a pretty pink dress, adorns you in jewellery and even adds some makeup. You’re excited because you only get dressed up when it’s a special occasion. Afterwards, your mother lovingly carries you towards a place that is decorated much like a wedding venue. You get even more excited because you love weddings! You’re taken to a man of 60 years and told you you are going to be his wife. You look at your mum to make sure she is joking but sadly, she’s not.
At that revelation, you would probably feel incredibly scared, bewildered and disbelieving. Unfortunately, this is not a horror movie, only a sad reality for many children around the world. The thought of going through that horrifies me and yet, it’s happening. In fact, it is so common that it affects 39,000 children a day or a child every 2 seconds. In India, 47% of girls that are married are under 18 and in Yemen, over 50% of female children under 18 are married.* These girls are regularly married off to a male adult.
Parents marry off their girls young due to various cultural and religious reasons. They think they are protecting their kids and feel early marriage prevents them from rape. They may also do it because of poverty and it is one less mouth to feed. A lack of education about child marriage also plays a part in it.
When married, the girls are usually pulled out of school, isolated from friends and family, forced to engage in sexual conduct and have children when they are not mentally and physically ready.
A few reasons for taking the married child out of school is for fear they may partake in sexual activity outside of the marriage. It’s also seen as a reason to allow more time to take part in domestic duties.
More often than not, they are treated like properties – regularly beaten senselessly or maimed or even killed. With no form of education and support, these children have little to no chances of escaping such a situation.
These girls are treated so badly that they resort to self-immolation, the deed of putting themselves on fire. Usually an act of extreme political and religious protest, it’s committed in utter desperation.
To find out more about child, early and forced marriages, I would suggest you visit www.tooyoungtowed.org. They are currently doing a travelling exhibition around the world and happen to be in the London School of Economics until the 1st of August at 2pm. It is open to all and no tickets are required.
“All statistics are provided from Too Young To Wed.