I wrote the following essay for a college application. I first read about this topic (child marriages) in a National Geographic article that brought me to tears. This is the essay I based the script for my video on, although my video addresses more than just child marriages.Imagine a girl. Your daughter, your granddaughter, your niece. Now imagine her, still a child, married off by her father to a 50-year-old man to settle a debt or a family feud. This man abuses her. He rapes her. He gives her HIV/AIDS. Within the year, she is pregnant. Without any medical assistance, she spends two days in agonizing labor. Because her body is too small to give birth, her child dies. The wall of her birth canal tears, and she becomes permanently incontinent. Her husband and her family are disgusted by her condition, and she is cast out to the fringes of society.
|From Flickr by Pondspid|
This is not just in your imagination. This is happening today. In fact, this is happening 25,000 times today, and tomorrow, and every day after that.
Child marriages are a human rights violation. While illegal in most countries, national laws do little to stop this horrifying practice, which is deeply ingrained in the culture and traditions of the mostly poor, rural areas of the developing world. In many African and South Asian cultures, if a girl is not a virgin when she is married, she brings shame upon her entire family. In order to prevent such a dishonor, she is married as young as eight years old, often to a fully-grown man whom her parents believe will act as a guardian-figure and protect her from immorality. Many times, daughters are married off as children or young teenagers for economic reasons—having less quantifiable value than sons, they are seen as a financial burden. They may also be given away to repay a debt or settle a feud with another family.
|From Flickr by hiro00|
The most profound consequence of child marriages, however, is not a physical or even emotional one. It is the perpetuation of the seemingly endless cycle of women not receiving an education. Lack of education is both the cause and the consequence of child marriage. An uneducated girl cannot provide an economic benefit to her family, so instead she is a burden. Once she is married, she has no time or freedom to pursue an education, and cannot seek a job to improve her economic status. Because she is poor and uneducated, she cannot afford to send her daughter to school, and because her daughter never receives an education, she is a financial burden on her family.
|From Flickr by World Bank Photo Collection|
A wise woman I know always says that the three most important things in the world are birth control, vaccines, and education of women. I disagree—I think these are all one thing. Educating women is the fastest and surest way to eradicate the global issues of poverty, hunger, overpopulation, and disease. But with such detrimental yet socially acceptable practices as child marriage, widespread education for women in the developing world seems like a dim goal in the distant future. In the mean time, 25,000 girls are getting married to men several times their age, having premature pregnancies, and being spurned by their families and their communities for an easily curable—and preventable—condition. Every. Single. Day.
If you want to help give a girl another chance,
please donate to the Fistula Foundation.
"Child Brides - Child Marriage: What We Know. NOW : PBS." PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. JumpStart Production, n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2011.
"Child Marriage and Forced Marriage : FORWARD." FORWARD - safeguarding the health and rights of African women. FORWARD, n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2011.
Clifford, Cassandra. "Will a Ban on Child Marriage Bring an End to Obstetric Fistula? : Foreign Policy Blogs." Foreign Policy Blogs : The FPA Global Affairs Blog Network : Foreign Policy Blogs. Foreign Policy Association, 14 Oct. 2010. Web. 18 Sept. 2011.
Gorney, Cynthia. “Too Young to Wed: The Secret World of Child Brides.” National Geographic June 2011: 79-99. Print.
Lemoyne. "Child protection from violence, exploitation and abuse." UNICEF. UNICEF, 23 Sept. 2010. Web. 18 Sept. 2011.
"Obstetric fistula: a dire consequence of child marriage : International Humanist and Ethical Union." International Humanist and Ethical Union : The world union of Humanist organizations. International Humanist and Ethical Union, 8 Mar. 2008. Web. 18 Sept. 2011.
The Fistula Foundation. n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2011.