The Aventina

Child Marriage Across the World: “Before I was a kid, and now I’m having a kid. Of course it’s scary.”

Raffaella Jarvis, Reporter

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Child marriage has always been a problem since the beginning of time. About 10 million girls under the age of 18 across the world are married off yearly. The highest percentage of child marriage is in India of about 40%. It is illegal in India for anyone to allow child marriage and there is a fine of about EUR 1500, but many marriages often take place regardless of these laws, as people feel they go against tradition. However, child brides in Rajasthan usually get married off to boys that are close to their age, and don’t live together until they are 16 or 17. Many women, after being interviewed, say that they would have rather been married later on because they didn’t get a chance to finish their studies. 26-year-old mother of two children, Rukhmani, who married at six-years-old and began living with her husband at age 15 says “Had I been married later, I’d have learned to read and write,” she also says, “If I’d studied, I wouldn’t have had to work in the scorching heat, harvesting in the fields.” Another child bride, Mamta, admits that she also regrets not choosing the option to study instead of having a family so early and getting regularly beaten by her husband. On a more positive note, Shiv Shiksha Samiti, an NGO located in Rajasthan, has encouraged young girls to stay and school and complete their education. Now 14-year-old, Roshan Bairwa, with the help of this small NGO, was motivated to stand up to her parents and their wishes and demand that she continue school and not marry so early. Since her first burst of confidence she proudly says announces “not a single girl has been married off in my village.” Then again she admitted that the fact that her local school was public (free) helped with the convincing of her parents. Next to India, Bangladesh has “the highest rate of child marriage in South Asia and the fourth highest in the world, despite child marriage being illegal here, too.” 14-year-old Seema says “After marriage, what is my work now? Washing dishes, cleaning the floor, washing clothes and cooking,” after marrying and living with her 19-year-old husband. She has missed out on so much of her childhood and has shifted too quickly into adulthood “Before I was a kid, and now I’m having a kid. Of course it’s scary,” she says. The main reason for early marriage of underage girls is not, usually, because the parents are selfish or cruel, but because poverty is a huge problem in places like Bangladesh or Syria, parents want to marry off their children so that their husbands can support them and promise an easier life. Another reason is because of tradition. Some cultures have only known this way of life and to them it is normal. Of course some children manage to convince their parents not to get married off by turning towards other options like finding work. However, convincing parents, without sufficient options, is hard because usually, there aren’t many options at all. Syrian refugees in Jordan are primary examples of poverty forcing parents to marry off their daughters in order to provide them better lives. 16-year-old Syrian refugee, Fatima was living in a refugee camp until she married about a year ago. She gave birth to a baby girl five months ago and has another baby on the way. She says that even though she loves her husband and believes child marriage is normal she regrets not having continued her education when she left school at 10. “I won’t let my daughter get married young. She needs to be 25 or so. It’s too much responsibility.”

Photo provided by the reporter.

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Child Marriage Across the World: “Before I was a kid, and now I’m having a kid. Of course it’s scary.”