Child marriage is defined as a formal marriage or informal union before age 18 and is widespread potentially leading to a lifetime of disadvantage and deprivation for the adolescent. It is a reality for all children, although girls are disproportionately the most affected.
The goal is reconsideration of bill H.R. 2103, to prevent child marriage for the purpose of protecting children affected by it in developing countries. This practice isn’t a cultural relativism, for the fact that child marriage can be extremely dangerous for the children involved. For instance, the girls involved in child marriage are more susceptible to many health risks due to pregnancy, domestic violence, sexual abuse and social isolation. These girls are deprived of an education and/or work to provide for their husband.
"One third of girls in the developing world are married before the age of 18 and 1 in 9 are married before the age of 15." -International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)
"If present trends continue, 150 million girls will be married before their 18th birthday over the next decade. That’s an average of 15 million girls each year." -ICRW
"Girls living in poor households are almost twice as likely to marry before 18 than girls in higher income households." -ICRW
"Girls with higher levels of schooling are less likely to marry as children. In Mozambique, 60 percent of girls with no education are married by 18, compared to 10 percent of girls with secondary schooling and less than one percent of girls with higher education." -ICRW
"Pregnancy is consistently among the leading causes of death for girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide." -ICRW
"Girls who marry before 18 are more likely to experience domestic violence than their peers who marry later. A study conducted by ICRW in two states in India found that girls who were married before 18 were twice as likely to report being beaten, slapped or threatened by their husbands than girls who married later." -ICRW
Child marriage contributes to the never ending cycle of poverty. It also limits a female’s ability to get an education and a job. This is not only harmful to the girl, but it will have repercussions for their children and the community as a whole. It also increases the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
Little or no focus is giving to the education of children and the poverty cycle is a continuous cycle. Young girls are more likely to face violence by the domestic partner, due to the power of their husbands. There have been instances of post-traumatic stress syndrome and depression due to sexual abuse. These girls experience marital rape, which occurs in a multitude of countries where child marriage exists. There are reports of girls being raped and forced into marriage so that their attacker does not receive punishment; then the marital rape continues. Due to their bodies being too small to encounter sexual activity, they are left with physical damage to their bodies. They are also more susceptible to H.I.V. and other forms of sexually transmitted diseases, due to the partner being older and having had sexual relations with other women. Girls who encounter sexual activity by age 15 are more likely to die in childbirth because their bodies are not able to carry the baby.
Child marriage is in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as well. It is a forced practice that involves pressure and emotional blackmail, that the child does not have full capability in choosing their partner. It violates UDHR Articles: 16.) Marriage and Family- because the child does not get to choose the partner she wants to marry, 4.) No slavery- the child is forced to work for the other family, picking up the chores of the house, 5.) No torture- domestic violence is an occurrence with the child due to the male having power, 19.) Freedom of expression- there is no choice in proceeding with the marriage or turning it down, and 26.) The right to education- because the education of the child is taken away from them or is not given to them once they are married.
Plan of Action
To reconsider bill H.R. 2103, "to protect girls in developing countries through the prevention of child marriage, and for other purposes", and to maximize aid dollars, increase access to girl’s education, provide economic opportunities for young women, and support the needs of child brides. If the bill is reconsidered, Sustainable Development Goals #3 (Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages), #4 (Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities), and #5 (achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls) would be achieved by ending child marriage.
If the practice of child marriage continues more individuals are going to be victims of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression due to the domestic violence they encounter. Suicide rates will increase. Girls will continue to be uneducated and the poverty cycle won’t stop. By maximizing aid dollars, increasing access to girl’s education, providing economic opportunities for young women, and supporting the needs of child brides child marriage would continuously decrease until it does not exist any longer. This would ultimately continue to improve the well being of all countries, helping us achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.