henever we talk about world problems and the state of the developing countries, the conversation always gets centered on poverty, hunger, and water and sanitation problems. These issues are indeed very important. But there are also other important issues that people shy away from discussing. Yes, we will discuss childhood marriages which are becoming a trend in these countries.
You probably have never thought about why childhood marriages are so rampant? You know that child marriage is a problem in the developing world, but are you aware of the extent of this phenomenon and the reason behind this act? What factors are leading to such statistics? We will answer these questions in this article.
Factors responsible for childhood marriage in developing countries
According to UNCRC, “the minimum age for marriage with and without parental consent be set at 18 years, regardless of the sex of the individual involved.” Still, in developing countries, girls’ marriage and even boys are common before 18.
Here are the main factors which lead to childhood marriages and why it’s becoming a trend.
One of the leading factors responsible for childhood marriage is poverty. Due to poverty, parents are unable to make both ends meet. In developing countries, wages are low, and it is not possible for a father who is the sole earner to feed the entire family. To lessen their economic burden, they marry off their young girls. It is not uncommon to find a girl married off to a man who is much older than her.
Sometimes, this happens because the parents need the money provided by the man as the bride price. In other cases, girls are made to marry someone so that they will look after them when they grow old and can no longer do it themselves.
Another factor that leads to childhood marriages is gender inequality. In some cultures, men have more power than women, so boys can choose their partners freely, while girls are not given that same privilege.
Suppose women do not marry and get an education. In that case, they may one day stand shoulder to shoulder with men, and the patriarchal mentality is opposed to such equality or dominance of women over men. Girls are typically married to serve males as housewives, and they become victims of domestic violence.
Another significant reason childhood marriage is rampant in developing countries is the low literacy rate. It is 62.3 % in Pakistan, 75 % in India, and 74.9 % in Bangladesh, and from these percentages, the majority of education is for boys and not girls. People are illiterate, so they lack awareness of girls’ rights and the importance of good education. According to research, “Child marriage rates in South Asia are the second-highest in the world, behind only West Africa. Nearly half (46 percent) of young women in South Asia aged 20-24 in 2010 were married before they turned 18.”
Religious fundamentalism also plays a significant role in societies like Pakistan and India, and likewise, people marry girls at a young age. For example, Islam teaches its followers that girls should be married off before puberty to don’t have any sexual desires before getting married (which could lead them into sin).
More importantly, an honor is attached to the girls in developing nations. Honor is one of the main reasons childhood marriage occurs in developing countries. Honor is defined as the respect that an individual has for their family name. When someone marries off their daughter at a young age, it can prevent them from getting into trouble with boys or having premarital sex with someone before they’re married.
Men kill women in honor of killing and bring shame to the family for doing sex without getting married. So, to protect themselves from such a situation, parents marry their daughters early.
Consequences of early childhood marriage
There are negative consequences of these early childhood marriages which have to be faced by these young girls. Here are a few disadvantages of Early Childhood marriage:
Can’t handle the responsibilities:
The first disadvantage of early childhood marriage is that children are not mature enough to handle the responsibilities of marriage. They are not yet capable of supporting themselves financially, nor are they able to make decisions without the guidance of their parents.
Early childhood marriage can also harm the health of both partners. Children who marry young often lack knowledge about sexual health and cannot use protection effectively. Additionally, young people who get married may not be prepared for the tasks associated with being a spouse or parent, leading to an unhealthy relationship between husband and wife and between mother and child.
Early childhood marriage has been linked to domestic violence in recent years. The reason is that young girls who are forced into marriage are often beaten by their husbands when they do not obey them or when they try to leave the marriage.
This type of abuse can cause permanent psychological damage to children and young adults forced into marriages at such a young age.
The most significant disadvantage of early childhood marriage is its impact on the health of the bride and groom. If a girl is still a child, she will not be able to handle the physical demands of intercourse, pregnancy, and childbirth. She may also not be prepared to take care of her health, let alone her husband’s or children’s.
In addition to this, sexual violence and marital rape are also common in such marriages, and sometimes contract AIDS and other diseases.
The factors behind early childhood marriage are deep-rooted, and it isn’t easy to get rid of them in one day. Though the governments are trying to keep a strict check, the solution lies in taking strict legal actions and spreading awareness among parents about the health complications, violence, and mental disturbance from such marriages.