Match Made in ‘Haven’t’
For child marriages have not failed to let unconsenting misery and injustice to prevail.
A 15-year-old girl should be …
A) In school
B) Having a crush
For those of you who are lucky enough, A and B have got to be the ideal answers. Having troubles working on a math homework since you didn’t really pay attention when the teacher explained it earlier in class because you’re too busy daydreaming about whether your crush noticed you wearing your braids a little loose today or not, that should have somewhat been the case of being 15. But, unfortunately, almost 12 million answers have got to go for C, knowing that that exact number represents the amount of girls who are subjected to be in child marriages — worldwide and annually. 12 million is like the approximate capacity of Madison Square Garden times 570-something. I’m gonna let you sink that in for a while.
Generally, a child marriage is when one party or both in the union are under 18-year-old. However, in plenty of cases, it is mostly the brides who are the children — making girls the ones who are at loss the most. From getting pulled out from their education, to sacrificing their lives due to giving births at such a young age, those girls seem to be valued less of humans and more like some mere stooges. Their privilege of being a child is being robbed and traded for an overwhelming oppression they do not — and never would — long for. And no, they do not even have the time to vibe with Teardrops on My Guitar by Taylor Swift while staring at the window, wondering about that girl who Drew swoons over, because the calibre of shittiness that they are facing is way much more than just being in a cheesy love triangle.
The costs that these girls have to pay once they are entangled with child marriages are a ton. The fact that many child marriages are often forced and arranged only mean that they do not get a say about who they are marrying or even knowing about when will it happen. Whereas in the last sentence of Article 10(1) of the United Nations’ International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), it clearly elucidates that, “Marriage must be entered into with the free consent of the intending spouses.” Be that as it may, in average, the marriage laws that are enforced worldwide consider that 18 is the minimum age for a person to wed — or 16 at the most minimum. But guess which practice does not comply with those regulations? Say it with me now: child marriage.
I once read an article that a decision is inclined to be taken for granted if it was made by a child — as if children are not supposed to know any better, only because they are just children, whatever that means. Being young should not dictate one to be less worthy of acknowledgements. There are certain rights that one innately owns, which includes the rights of having a self-determination to decide on who one wants to marry, or let alone to do it before turning 18. So, basically, child marriage denies girls — or boys for that matter — from enjoying the aforementioned basic right they possess and that should be more than enough to fuel your rage.
So, if child marriage is that bad, why does it still continue to happen?
Firstly, it has been culturally embedded and appropriated in some societies that it is even being considered as a tradition. In Burkina Faso, it is possible for a girl to be offered to another family as early as right after she is born in exchange for some goods or services — as if girls’ dignities could be equated to some apple pies that your mom bakes for those Sunday potlucks. Meanwhile in Pakistan, there is this practice called swara, which is basically the means of settling screw-ups (including murders, even adulteries) by marrying off the girls to the ‘opposite’ sides. In other words, they are saying that it is completely acceptable for girls who got raped to be wedded to the rapists, just because that is how the tradition rolls.
Secondly, having a below par economic dependability turns out to be one of the main roots of child marriage to take place. People in Niger have become accustomed by the habit of families marrying their girls to wealthy older men, believing that it is the ultimate way out to survive and escape poverty. In India, poorer households are more prone to encourage their girls to marry young — knowing that the younger the bride is, the less dowry that is required for the bride’s family to give to the groom’s.
The last but woefully not the least, let’s give it up for the good ol’ gender roles. From the aforementioned narratives, it can be clearly perceived that girls are given the weight of being the ultimate bearer of the family’s reputation, while also being managed to be the main resort for a family’s good name rectification. To be a girl — or a woman, eventually — one is mostly expected to be submissive, or else, in some cases, that would be the death of their femininity. Once they are sought to be less of a woman due to their insubordination, the next thing they know is that they are being labeled as failures and, of course, since it is a man’s world, it would only hurt their pride to choose a wife who is not ‘woman enough’.
From the reasons of purity to economy, the society commonly guilt-trips the girls and create excuses to trap them into dilemmatic positions that eventually unable them to even think of any reprimand. Leaving them out of choices is one thing, but haunting them with faults that are not actually even theirs is beyond unacceptable.
To eradicate this pressing issue, well-rounded and thorough efforts must be done. From community-based educational programs of self-worth instillment and basic sex education, the provision of encouraging sharing platforms, to strenuous policies by the local authorities — all of these actions are not hierarchical but are parallel in significance. They also cannot work just by themselves because they are interconnected to each other. Knowing that this issue is not a duality complex, hence it requires individuals, parties, organisations, governments, basically everyone, to work hand in hand, eradicating it for once. After all, there shall never be any reasons that could justify the practice of child marriage.