The consequences of early and forced marriage

We’re about to leave the glamorous world of destination weddings to explore eco entertainment this month.

But before we do, we thought it important to publish this article from charity Plan UK and the far from glamorous issue of early and forced marriage which in countries such as Niger, Chad and Mali exceeds 70%.  Over to Plan UK…

What would you call something that causes poverty, abuse, and poor health? Some call it marriage. In developing countries around the world forced marriages are a way of life – and girls are paying the bitter price.

The numbers are staggering. Ten million girls under the age of 18 marry each year. One in seven is married before her 15th birthday. It happens all around the world, but the practice is rampant in developing countries.

Deeply held cultural and religious beliefs about the role of females in society and a failure of government to protect girls are key factors. Whatever motivates families to marry off young girls, those girls are more likely to suffer from:

  • Abuse. Girls who marry older men are at increased risk of physical violence, forced sexual relations, and emotional abuse.
  • Health problems. Young girls with older husbands are at increased risk of early childbirth and contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Poor education. In many cultures, girls are forced out of education after marriage.

These issues contribute to a lifetime cycle of poverty and dependence. Education is the key to breaking that cycle. In countries where girls are allowed safe access to a quality education, fewer are forced into early marriage.

Change is coming – change in culture, change in law

It takes more than a cultural change – it takes governmental change. It takes solid laws designed to protect girls and women, and the resolve to enforce them.

Global children’s charities are working to help provide educational opportunities for girls in some of the world’s poorest countries. Governments are beginning to take the issue seriously.

Forced marriage: gross interference with dignity and autonomy

A judge recently dismissed a family’s argument that the arranged marriage between a UK woman of Bangladeshi origin was in her best interests. The woman is disabled and has severe learning difficulties, prompting the judge to rule that she lacked the mental capacity necessary to consent. The family argued that an annulment would shame the family.

The Telegraph quotes Mrs Justice Parker as saying, “Forcing marriage on someone who lacks mental capacity is a ‘gross interference’ with their dignity and autonomy, particularly as it means having sex and possibly becoming pregnant without being able to consent.”

The UK government has plans to introduce a Forced Marriage Bill that would make forced marriage a criminal offence. The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) reports that in 2011, there were 1,468 instances where the FMU gave advice or support related to a possible forced marriage. Of these, 78 percent were female and 22 percent were male. Sixty-six involved people with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, or both. There were 10 instances involving victims identifying themselves as LGBT.

On September 4, 2012, The World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee presented a statement of concern about forced marriages in Pakistan, urging the government to, “Take immediate action to prevent the abduction, forced conversion to Islam and forced marriage of young women from minority religious communities and to bring to justice all those who engage or have engaged in these heinous crimes.”

Forced marriage is a gross interference with dignity and autonomy for ten million girls every year. Girls who deserve better.

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