Unveiling some of many risks of early marriage, and the significance of a call for action.
Picture yourself at the tender age of 15, and your parents decided to deprive you from one of your most basic rights: education. And why? so that you could marry some boy you barely know from your village and who might be at least 7 to 8 years older than you. Envision the scenario where instead of classrooms and friends and books, having an arranged marriage with a stranger.
Now imagine the challenges of becoming a mother at the age of 16, the physical abuse this will put you through, and zero financial independence to break the cycle of mental and physical violence this put you in. Such narrative may seem from the past, in our great grandparents’ era maybe, but do you know this still happens? In many regions in the world, it will make you frustrated. Do you care to delve into the risks of those girls?
We might not be living them, and most probably do not know anyone that is, but this is a call to sympathy and awareness, so even if we are shielded and blessed, countless girls out there aren’t.
Let’s dive into those risks.
Around the world, child marriage is a widespread and deeply ingrained social issue that impacts millions of children, especially girls. When one or both partners are under the age of 18, it refers to an informal union. Even while we have made great strides in many areas of human growth, these unsettling realities still exist in some parts of the world, especially in less developed nations and regions like Africa and some Arab regions.
The health problems that young brides confront are among the most urgent; early pregnancies raise the risk of maternal death and difficulties after childbirth. Girls forced into early marriages sometimes find themselves taken away from school, which harms their educational goals and leads to increased literacy. Additionally, early marriages come with a higher rate of domestic abuse.
Beyond physical health, there is a significant psychological cost. Mental health conditions like depression and anxiety can be factual consequences. Little girls have little to no financial independence which keeps them stuck in this loop. Hovering over the countries, we can see that most of those in darker shade of blue are African countries, and other less developed countries including Bangladesh, Chad, Niger, Mali, and others. The treemap serves to highlight some of these countries where this is highly prevalent.
Poverty, is one of the root causes of Early Marriage which is shown below, that poverty is relatively high in the countries mentioned in this study. Parents in less developed countries think of their daughters as financial burdens which is why they take them out of school and force them into marrying young. Limited living resources force families to believe that marriage is a way of surviving. In the same countries we put into study, we can see that the Poverty Headcount is large in most of them.
According to UNICEF, 21% of young women (aged 20 to 24) were married as children. Before turning eighteen, one in five females gets married. That figure doubles in the least developed nations, where 12% of girls get married before turning 15 and 40% of girls get married before turning 18. This is 28 girl every minute. The below visuals show that the countries in study are mainly located in Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa as well as Asia, have their women justify being beaten by their husbands and still normalize it, have young girls out of school, and have higher risks of maternal death, meaning that early marriage may cause all the below. These are just some amongst many consequences.
Countries including Bangladesh, Senegal, Niger, Uganda, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Guinea, and many more, seemed to always have these issues combined.
Can you believe that 17.48% of women in Bangladesh justify being beaten? Followed by 11.63% in Mali, 10.80% in Ethiopia, ranking the top 3 among many other countries.
Additionally, 18.41%, followed by 13.19% and 9.19% in Niger, Guinea, and Mozambique respectively.
The Bubble Chart serves to highlight countries where Maternal Death Risk is most prevalent as well. Is it a coincidence that the same countries that have high early marriage rates, almost rank high in all three risks?
It is imperative to save young girls from forced marriage, give them the right education they deserve, decrease their risk of dying while giving birth, mitigate the physical and mental abuse, and give them the right to just be little girls.
Collectively, we can combat early marriage and create an atmosphere where girls feel empowered to continue their education and make educated decisions about their futures, to mitigate the risks.
It can include educational awareness, health awareness, social awareness against violence and domestic abuse, free training, and educational programs, etc.
Details of the solution:
Promoting access to quality education especially for girls by making it free especially in the less developed countries where parents would rather not spend any money on their girls and see them as financial burdens.
Conducting awareness campaigns on the potential side effects of child marriages.
Create economic opportunities for girls through skill development and training to enhance their financial independence.
Promotion of Gender Equality.
Engaging parents in these campaigns on the importance of financial stability and independence before marriage.
The solution may also include legal consequences.
Leveraging social media to raise awareness!
Findings and Recommendations:
The recommendations are centered around the efforts that should be made to enforce the laws setting a minimum age for marriage, additionally to challenging the cultural norms and conducting awareness activities, setting a legal age for marriage, support and healthcare systems, educational and training initiatives and provide girls with the circumstances that allow them to make their own decisions.
in 2015, the United Nations Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership. One of those goals is gender equality (i.e., goal #5).
Gender Inequality has been an imperative social issue in India for centuries. India lags behind when it comes to education for women, and this lag hinders a woman’s role in their society. Some symptoms of the problem are:
The role of women living in a traditional Indian society is to look after the home and children which requires no schooling.
The Indian society is organized in a way that it is patriarchal i.e., it revolves around the male and the female occupies a negligible role. The sons are considered as assets whereas the daughters are considered as liabilities
If the family is living in poverty, then the female child is tasked with household chores and taking care of her siblings. Thus, no time nor money is spent on the female child’s education
If a woman is able to earn money after receiving education, then there is a concern that she will hurt the male ego due to her independence.
According to the above bar chart, the literacy rate of Indian women as a percentage of the total population of women in India in the year 1981 was found to be approximately 25.68%. However, India did not remain idle when faced with such a conundrum. In 2009, they implemented a program called the Saakshar Bharat program that aims to promote and strengthen adult learning, reaching out to those who missed the opportunity to access or complete formal education as well as basic literacy/education. This program involves the government of India acting as a facilitator and resource provider while simultaneously working closely with many local communities in order to design educational programs tailor-made to their specific needs. After the implementation of the program, the literacy rate among Indian women reached 65.78% in 2018.
This result alone proves that the program has been successful in eliciting change for Indian women via education. Therefore, the Indian government should continue offering the program and invest more funds into it to target more local communities within the region.
“The enemy doesn’t stand a chance when the victim decides to survive.” – Rae Smith
How Is It Justified?
Globally, 1 in 3 women have been subjected to partner violence, and it becomes worst when women consider this violence justifiable. Early marriage is a major reason that women think it’s okay to be beaten up by their spouses, usually, spousal age differences, power inequalities, un-continued education, and a lack of female autonomy are all common features of early age marriages. These factors have been linked to an increased risk of domestic violence and affected women’s awareness of their entitlement, self-esteem, status, and their sense of empowerment.
In most African countries and some Asian countries, women believed spousal violence is justified and that can be linked to high percentages of female adolescents out of school and early marriages in these countries.
Even globally numbers are still worrying, the average number of women who believed a husband is justified in beating up his wife is still Relatively high. With the average number of female adolescents out of school being steady over the past 22 years, marriages at a young age are still taking place and resulting in more domestic violence since spousal age difference can make women more vulnerable to health risks and social Isolation by creating power dynamics. These power dynamics can increase girls’ vulnerability to emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.
According to the WDI (World Development Indicators) data some of the justified reasons for domestic violence were:
When women argue with the husband
When she burns the food
When she goes out without telling him
When she neglects the children
When she refuses sex with him
So, you might ask, what can be done? Well, a lot actually. To start with, empowering young women are essential. This can be done through:
Enhance girls’ access to a high-quality education
Empower girls with information, skills, and support networks
Provide financial assistance and incentives to young women and their families
Educate and rally parents and the community members
Education is crucial in preventing females from marrying as adolescents. In fact, the longer a girl stays in school, the less likely she is to marry and have children before she toms 18 years old. Furthermore, education ensures that girls have the skills and information they need to find work and support their families. This can aid in breaking the cycle of poverty and preventing child marriages caused by extreme poverty and/or financial gains.
Education, economic status, and age gap are the main factors behind early marriages and domestic violence. It’s recommended to Promote education and economic opportunities for girls & Employ behavior change communication and community mobilization techniques to change social norms regarding age and marriage.
Educate a girl, change the world – Malala Yousafzai
Being a young lady and living in Lebanon, we always heard stories of women being beaten up, tortured, or killed by their husbands from our family members or friends. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Nearly half of women who die due to homicide are killed by their current or former husbands or boyfriends.” Many articles are bringing to light this issue especially with the start of the Covid19 pandemic, where we have seen a spike in that subject due to quarantine and home stays.
As generations, we have progressed in many fields, but we are still lacking a lot in that domain. How is that possible? One main reason for domestic violence’s on-going presence is that, on average, 37.75% of women around the world believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife (percentage from 2000 till 2020). That’s a huge number! Many women justify this type of violence as “normal’” and give the right to their partners/ husbands to beat them. But why are women justifying and accepting domestic violence? Why is that number this high nowadays?
To dig deep into the subject, I decided to evaluate potential factors that could affect women’s decision in justifying domestic violence such as poverty levels, literacy rates, and early marriages rates around the world. It was found that:
On average, 75.96% of Female aged 15+ are literate around the world (from 2000 till 2020)
On average, 3.63% of the global population live under Poverty Gap at $1.90 a day (from 2000 till 2020)
On average, 6.78% of Female between 20 and 24 years old married at the age of 15 around the world (from 2000 till 2020)
The results showed that countries with low literacy rates in female adults have higher percentages of women who believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife (stand with domestic violence) such as Ethiopia who has a low literacy rate of 28.53% in female adults and a very high percentage of women who justify their husband’s violence (74.23%).
On the poverty level, it was found that countries with higher poverty gaps rates have higher percentages of women who stand with domestic violence such as Congo who has a poverty gap of 51.7% and a very high percentage of women who justify their husband’s violence (75.2%).
Also, when comparing that percentage with the percentage of women who married at the age of 15, it was found that countries with higher numbers of early marriages have higher percentages of women who stand with domestic violence such as Chad who has a percentage of early marriage of 29.47% (of female between 20-24 have married at the age of 15) and a very high number of women who justify their husband’s violence (67.9%).
Poverty, Literacy rates, and Early Marriages in the country affect heavily the perception of women in whether domestic violence by their partners is acceptable or not. High poverty rates increase the justification of domestic violence, low literacy rates increase the justification of domestic violence, and high early marriages rates increase the justification of domestic violence.
Increasing educational benefits in underprivileged countries would be a great initiative to increase literacy rates among women and stopping abuse among families. Introducing educational programs such as Girls’ Education by the World Bank Group which focuses on ensuring that young women receive a quality education, and raising awareness about physical abuse would also encourage the fight against domestic violence. Some countries such as Indonesia have increased the age of marriage of adolescent girls which would contribute to less early marriages, and less acceptance of violence.
Gender inequality has been an ongoing issue eversince the first record of history. Today, with rising empowerment and the right protesting, the value of women in the perception of global societies has risen significantly. However, there is still an issue of giving women a secondary rank in terms of societal values. Women, being married young, beginning to work before they become adolescents, and living in countries below the poverty line, tend to validate being beated by their husbands for burning the food, an issue that can arise from juggling so many responsibilities around and forgetting the stove on for as little as 1 minute extra. Although it seems that the poverty line in these women’s countries would lead women to be subject to such values, the key would lie in a more concrete matter, which is education. Education is key to empowerment, to discovering one’s boundaries, and to be able to develop a skill set to be more productive, more efficient, and have more impact. This has proven successful in countries in Northern Africa and the Middle East, and would be ideal if it were to be applied in Africa. In conclusion, investing in the education system must be the primary focus of a nation willing to end its gender gap.