Alessandra Addari / Culture

Child Bride Alarm

national geographic- yemeni child-brides-husbands

According to the United Nations, around the world there are more than 60 million little girls from 8 to 14 years (some even 5 years) who are given away in marriage. Whether it is because of money or because of respect for traditions, supposedly there will be 25,000 new child brides in the next 10 years.

Those girls, who are considered a burden on their family, are forced to marry unknown men much older than themselves, who forever rob them of their childhood and future opportunities.

The United Nations through UNICEF, UN Women and UNFPA, have been fighting for a long time to put an end to these unions and last October Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a key figure in the fight against apartheid in South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize Winner in 1984, presented the alarming UN report on child marriage, declaring: “We got rid of brutal things like apartheid, we can also put an end to early marriage.”

In first place of “top 20” countries where early marriages occur, according to a list compiled by the organization American International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), is Niger, where 76.6% of brides are underage, followed by Chad, Bangladesh , Mali, Guinea, Central African Republic, Nepal, Mozambique, Uganda, Burkina Faso, India, Ethiopia, Liberia, Yemen, Cameroon, Eritrea, Malawi, Nicaragua, Nigeria and Zambia.

In Yemen half or more of the little girls are forced to marry at around 8 years. Famous is the case of the small Nojoud, who in April 2008 had the courage to denounce the father who gave her away in marriage and divorced from her criminal husband who raped and beat her. In her biography “I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced (2009) she writes: “Every time I wanted to play in the yard, he hit me and made me go with him to the bedroom. When I begged for mercy, he hit me, slapped me and then used me.”

Child marriage denies girls the opportunity to study and therefore to emancipate themselves, and robs them of their childhood and their adolescence; it increases the risk of violence and abuse by their “husbands”, the risk of contracting AIDS from them, especially in Africa. It increases the risk of early pregnancies which often lead to death because of complications connected to childbirth (the major cause of death for girls aged from 15 to 19 years).

When it comes to violation of international conventions that prohibit marriage under the age of majority, any multicultural relativism cannot and should not be relied on, because all children are equal and they have the right to enjoy their childhood, regardless of the country they come from.

Alessandra Addari

 Interact

Picture source: National Geographic
Interact UK – http://interact-uk.org.uk
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