The practice of child marriage is a violation of basic human rights
Aisha, an 18 years old Taliban girl, was married off to her husband when she was only twelve. After being beaten many times and treated like a slave, she made a decision to run away from home. However, she was caught and punished. Her husband’s family dragged her to a cleared mountain near the village, ignoring her cries of protest. The local Taliban commander punished her and made her an example to warn the other girls in the village not to run away from their husband’s home. He gave his ruling and the men moved towards Aisha to carry out her punishment. Aisha’s brother-in-law held her down and her husband pulled out a knife from his pocket. First, he sliced her ears and then her nose. At that moment, she fainted. The men had left her alone at the mountainside to die (Baker, 2010). This story shows how the child brides’ rights are violated. They do not own their freedom and free to protect their rights. They cannot make their own decision to find a husband instead they are forced to marry with a person they do not even know. Child brides should be allowed to protect their own rights. They should have their own freedom, basic life necessities, and be able to develop physically, mentally and socially.
Supporters believe that child marriages assist the child’s family economically and socially. Most child marriages occur due to poor financial condition of the family. After marriage, child brides are no longer an economic burden to the family. Thus, it is believed that child marriage may bring wealth to the child brides’ family, but not necessarily the child themselves. For example, in Yemen, almost half of the villagers live on less than two dollars a day and sometimes girls are simply married off so that the family can collect the traditional dowry while having fewer mouths to feed although the child brides do not own benefits. (Murdock, 2010)
Moreover, supporters also maintain that child marriages may protect the child brides. The child marriage is a way to ensure that the child brides and their virginity can be protected from unsanctioned sexual activity through male control. They would stay together with their mother-in-law until they start to undergo menstruation. However, the family-in-law may abuse them. For example, from Early Marriage (Umemoto, 2001), published in 2000, in Jordan, it has found that 26 percent of the domestic violence were committed toward the child brides by their family in law. Furthermore, supporters stated that child marriages may bring honour to the child brides’ family through their virginity. Thus, to protect the family honour and virginity of the child, girls are married to military and well-known families earlier. However, it seems that honour does not bring advantages for the child brides but only to the family.
Child brides may lose their freedom after they get married. They are not free to choose their husbands, to continue their studies and to find jobs. Instead, they are forced to obey their parents-in-law’s decision. Moreover, they are disallowed to go outside by their husband’s family and are ordered to stay in a small room. For example, Sally, a 13 years old Yemen girl, was married off to a 25 years old man. However, she realized it was a wrong decision. The husband’s family had imprisoned her in a small room. Thus, she lost her freedom. (Murdock, 2010). Therefore, child brides do not have basic freedom as to protect their rights in choosing their husband, continuing their studies and even to work after they got married.
Basic quality of life is not protected in the child marriages. Health treatments, one of the basic quality of life, are not given to child brides. They may face difficulties to access health services because of the distance, fear, expenses and agreement from their spouse. These barriers aggravate the risks of the child brides’ health that cover good pregnancy care, and good medical treatment. From the statistics shown girls aged 10-14 are five times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth than women aged 20-24 and girls aged 15-19 have twice the risk to die from pregnancy. Thus, they may face lots of health problems. (Forward, 2002-2010)
The other basic quality of life that is denied to the child bride is the education for their personal development and preparation for adulthood that effectively contributes to the future well-being of their family and society. Their parents-in-law fear that their own child might be exposed to the risk of premarital sex and pregnancies from school when the children are married. Thus, they are willing to ignore the bride’s education and withdraw them from school. As a result, children who lack of education will have little qualification when finding a job and contain scarce knowledge about sexual relationship, their bodies and reproduction, which will deny the girl to make right decisions about sexual relations, planning a family, and their health.
Domestic violence breaches child brides’ right physically or mentally. They are more likely to suffer cruel treatments such as being beaten, getting raped and abused by their spouse and his family, and even becoming a domestic slave. According to Early Marriage (Stephen, 2001), the DHS Data from Egypt, 29 per cent of married adolescents are found to receive beatings from their husband, 41 per cent during pregnancy period. Moreover, child brides may also easily encounter psychological problems from the domestic violence. They become stressed as they have to endure silently. According to Clair O’Kane, a social worker of Save Children Sweden in Pakistan, child wives are three times more probably to have psychological problems than refugees who marry after 16. (Bushell, 2002) This means violence will cause the child brides to suffer not only physically but also mentally. Therefore, child brides’ are not protected physically or mentally.
Child marriage is a social problem; it does not protect the child’s rights. Child brides easily face the risk of becoming widowed at a young age because their husbands are most likely older than them. Their husband may also divorce or abandon them due to violent behaviour towards their wives including coercive sex and marital breakdown. According to Early Marriage (Umemoto, 2001), in Java, it has been found that child brides are more likely to be divorced by their husbands than girls who marry at ages 20-24. Thus, they may go through lots of difficulties after they are being widowed, divorced or abandoned such as financial problems, additional discriminations by the society and denial of their rights.
“It is not only unclear whether children are protected against marriage at any aged, but whether they were intended to be protected," said professor of International law of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. (Bushell, 2002). Child rights should be protected because children have their rights to own their freedom, own a basic life quality and be able to develop physically, mentally and socially.