This Valentine’s Day, Say #IDONT To Child Marriage

This Valentine’s Day, Say #IDONT To Child Marriage

What thoughts come to mind when you’re thinking of Valentine’s Day? Your partner’s affection? Chocolate and champagne? The heartwarming feeling of knowing that your child is secretly crafting you a card?

Perhaps you choose not to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and that is all right. It is our human right – freedom of thought and expression.

Imagine yourself forced into marrying a stranger, brutally removed from your home with no right to further your studies or earn money, forced into home labour, having children and being beaten up for the smallest mistakes – even forced into prostitution. Unable to voice your pain, having no one to listen to you.

Millions of children around the world are forced into such a marriage, against their will and without the slightest knowledge of how it will shape their future – how their lives, their physical and emotional wellbeing will be affected.

Child marriage is a human rights violation. Although the law is against it, this practice – often seen as a tradition – is widespread in rural and impoverished communities, where gender inequality is prevalent. In developing countries, one in nine girls is married under the age of 15. Unfortunate families and their children become locked in a vicious cycle of poverty that will engulf future generations.

By ending child marriage, these girls will be able to finish school, delay motherhood, find decent jobs, be able to provide for their families, live fulfilled lives and be removed from the cycle of generational poverty – as well as improve the economy.

Ukuthwala is a traditional practice that takes place in South Africa the practice of abducting young girls and forcing them into marriage, often with the consent of their parents. It occurs mainly in rural parts of South Africa – in particular, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. The girls who are involved in this practice are frequently underaged, including some as young as eight.

“If a family has six children and there is a daughter the family cannot support, it is a way of getting rid of her,” said professor Deidre Byrne, chairperson of the Unisa-Africa Development Programme set up to promote girls’ rights.

Although originally this practice was not intended to be an abuse of human rights, throughout the years and perhaps due to poverty, the practice has changed, and girls are no longer given a choice. Financial reasons can force the girl’s parents to accept the marriage; on the other side, the girl is often rejected by her own family if she tries to escape.

More than 91,000 South African girls between the ages of 12 and 17 are reportedly married, divorced, separated, widowed or living with a partner as husband and wife, with the latter forming the majority of the group.(Statistics SA)

Courtesy Buzz SA

A social worker with the Open Door Crisis Centre in Pinetown said that the price for a child bride can be R4,000, which “is a lot of money (if you have nothing)”.

Five little known facts about child marriage

1. Child marriage happens all over the world.

More than 700-million women and girls alive today were married before they turned 18. Although child marriage happens in the U.S. and the U.K. as well, it is most prevalent in developing countries, as one of the main driving forces is poverty.

2. Both boys and girls are married off by their parents, but girls are in much higher demand.

Marrying at such an early age forces both boys and girls into adult responsibilities. They have to drop out of school or are interdicted to attend school. Reaching adulthood, these people will lack the education required to campaign for themselves, being vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. The vicious circle of poverty stretches over yet another generation.

Girls forced into child marriage are at high risk of violence from their spouses, in-laws and even their own family, should they try to run away from an abusive relationship and return home.

3. Child marriage is almost universally banned.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women prohibit child marriage. These treaties have been signed or ratified by most countries, yet there are national and local laws that permit child marriage to take place with only parental consent.

4. Child marriage and teen pregnancy are dangerously linked.

Globally, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among adolescent girls. Child brides are at very high risk of complications during pregnancy and birth, as their bodies are not mature enough. They often have limited access to medical help. An early pregnancy, often the result of a rape, puts girls at risk of being married off to the father of their baby, whoever he may be.

5. There is a critical need for laws prohibiting child marriage and marital rape, for laws on birth and marriage registration.

Mandatory schooling and gender equality can definitely empower girls. By considering girls equal to boys there will be less motivation to engage in child marriage. Both girls and boys must be educated with regards to their sexual and reproductive health and their human rights. When girls are empowered and can stand up for themselves, they even become advocates in their community.

Perhaps the eradication of extreme poverty is one of the very first steps towards ending child marriages.

Since 2015, UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) has worked to improve global awareness of child marriage, as well as taking action to end child marriage through the #IDONT international campaign on Valentine’s Day.

Join in and say #IDONT to show your support towards the estimated 70-million girls who will be married as children over the next five years, forced to say “I do” and having their human rights violated.

Child marriage – Frequently Asked Questions or contact UNFPA South Africa.

This article was published on Huffington Post SA on 14 February 2018

 

 

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Author: Pat

Patricia Furstenberg is a skilled and diverse author, poetess and mother, known for her uplifting, charming themes and lovable, enchanting characters: dogs, cats, elephants, cheetahs, lions, but also squirrels and snails. Her words “truly make the world a happier and more beautiful place!” Her book "Joyful Trouble" is an Amazon Bestseller. Her book of poems "As Good As Gold" became a #1 New Release the day it was published. With a medical degree behind her, Patricia is passionate about mind, brain and education and the psychology behind it. Using her knowledge she crafts stories and poems that are great fun, as well as teaching empathy. Her stories are filled with “creativity and vivid imagery” and she knows how to “capture the reader’s imagination.” Her prolific writing is described as: positive, diverse, crisp, joyful and uplifting. Patricia Furstenberg came to writing though reading, her passion for books being something she inherited from her parents. As a winner of the Write Your Own Christie Competition, the Judges "were impressed by her thorough investigation and admired the strength of her narrative; they were impressed by her style”. The judges thought Patricia's writing style is "well structured, with a great sense of tension and suspense”, “confident and intriguing”. The Judges were Mathew Prichard, David Brawn from Harper Collins UK and Daniel Mallory from Harper Collins US. When she’s not writing Patricia likes to read, read, read and dance. She never counts how many cups of coffee she enjoys in a day. Between her books you can also enjoy: "The Cheetah and the Dog", "Puppy, 12 Months of Rhymes and Smiles", "The Elephant and the Sheep" and many others. She is a Huffington Post contributor.

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