Over the next 10 years, more than 100 million girls will be married against their will in developing worlds. While the practice of child marriage is against the law, countries in Southern Asia and Africa lack the enforcement to protect young people. While some are boys, the majority of those affected are girls.
What is perhaps sadder still is that this practice is so common and many families do not realise that it is creating more harm than good. By marrying off their daughters, they believe they are protecting themselves from further poverty – there won’t be an extra mouth to feed. However it just furthers the vicious cycle that already exists.
Lack of education is a huge factor in why this happens. Many young brides are subjected to a life of illiteracy, poverty and often violence, though the role of education is not always as simple as it sounds. The cost and quality of that education is still a big factor. If it is too expensive or ineffectual, drop-out rates will increase and more young women will have to marry in order to survive.
However, with the right kind of education, more girls can graduate, provide for themselves and break the cycle that binds so many to a life of continuing poverty. Naturally the cost of this education isn’t easy to meet, which is where charities such as Plan UK come in. The money they raise makes schooling a safe place to be, plentiful and easy to reach, as well as effective in the message it teaches. The girls are given a curriculum that is relevant to them and they are given a far more well-rounded view of their own rights.
What's more, with child brides often having to bear children themselves, much can be done in the way of promoting better sexual and reproductive health, as well as limiting the spread of diseases like HIV and AIDS.
The charities can only do so much, though. Government and the UN must act to increase efforts on ending forced marriages and the practice of child brides. At the very least, the Universal Declaration for Human Rights must be upheld. Whether it is extra funding, or just the impetus to act on these laws, action is needed.
You can find out more about the work that Plan UK do in an effort to fighting forced and child marriages. Visit Plan UK to learn more about forced child marriage and for more information about their ‘Take the Vow’ petition.
By Plan UK