The Link Between Child Marriage and Poverty

>> Saturday, February 4, 2012

There was an interesting article on The Huffington Post this week about the link between child marriage and poverty. According to the piece, 25,000 brides under the age of 18 get married every day, many to men twice their age or older. 1 in 7 of those brides are under age 15 and child marriage still (today! in 2012!) affects 10 million girls every year.

From the article:

"Ask any grade school girl if she wants to get married she might say, "Yes to the dress." Ask if she's ready to be a wife, have sex, give birth, be a mother, give up her family, friends, education and any hope for a career and she might reply, "Boys are yucky," a sentiment shared by most little girls regardless of her culture. Ask that girl's mother if early marriage and sex with an older man is what she hopes for her daughter and her answer might be similar to mine: "Oh, hell no." They just don't have any choice."

As I mentioned in a previous post, girls are still seen as inferior and as property in many parts of the world and are often "given" as a way to settle disputes between families. Yes, some of these child-bride weddings even contribute to the totals I shared in the global wedding revenue infograph. (It's okay to feel sickened by that.)

So how does a child bride affect the cycle of poverty? Here is some more insight on that from the article:

  • When a girl from a developing country gets married, she drops out of school, quits working and has children.   
  • Children raised by uneducated, unemployed mothers grow up uneducated and unemployed too. 
  • Adolescent girls are five times more likely to die in childbirth than adult women. 
  • The children she leaves behind are 3-10 times more likely to die within the next two years.
Discussion of this topic used to be relegated to certain NGO conversations and the occasional dissertation. Fortunately, that is changing. It has been included in reports by the United Nations for a while and was recently a topic at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and has also been included in legislation in Congress (which, sadly, they have voted against so far.) I'm glad that more people are starting to discuss it in mainstream venues, even if much more work still needs to be done. Ending this type of abuse and attack on human rights can't be done until people are willing to talk about it and work together to find and fund solutions.

If you're in the U.S., you can contact your congressional representatives and ask them to pass the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act (you can do this easily using this link). Girls are a gift, not gifts to be given. Each young girl, no matter what family or neighborhood she is born into, deserves to live a life of dignity and choice.

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