International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act Why it is important and why it should be reintroduced to the House of Representatives

Child marriage, defined as a formal marriage or informal union before age 18, is a reality for both boys and girls, although girls are disproportionately the most affected. Child marriage is widespread and can lead to a lifetime of disadvantage and deprivation.Child marriage is defined in the bill as ”Child marriage, also known as “forced marriage” or “early marriage”, is a harmful traditional practice that deprives girls of their dignity and human rights”.

Cultural Relativism regards the beliefs or values within a culture that differ from society. However, this does not give a culture to right to oppress people in the name of cultural relativism. When people’s lives are put at risk to follow a cultural practice or tradition it is not protected. Child Marriage risks young girls lives in many aspects like domestic abuse, HIV infection and pregnancy mortality rates.

Effects of Child Marriage: There are tons of things that come with child marriage that people have little or no knowledge about. One thing is girls and schooling. Girls who get married at a young age tend to not have the ability to go to school because they are poor and cannot afford it. Another reason would be that they are going to be having a child and that is their main responsibility and all they can afford. The second fact is poverty. Child brides have little to no money and live in poverty due to the fact they have a child themselves to take care of and their husbands do not necessarily support them. Child brides live on less than 2$ a day to support themselves and their children. The third fact a lot of people are not aware of is the domestic violence that takes place. Child brides have little power in relation to their spouse. Even having in laws makes them extremely vulnerable to domestic violence because if the bride tries to leave or do something out of her own will, she will get beat for it. The fourth effect everyone should know is the health problems the girl's get. Once married and have intercourse they contract diseases which affect them in the long run. HIV is a huge one which has an effect on the child and the girl. It spreads and can kill each at any time and since they cannot afford medicine there is no way to prevent the death that comes with it. The final fact is the stress and torture a child bride has on her body. Since girls get married as young as 15, they can also give birth at that age as well. They are not fully developed and are not ready yet to have children, so when they do it can cause death in them. It can also cause infant mortality rate. Child marriage causes death in a lot of young girls and this is another reason why it should not be a thing.

Global Statistics: According to the UNICEF, an estimated 60,000,000 girls in developing countries now ages 20-24 were married under the age of 18, and if present trends continue more than 100,000,000 more girls in developing countries will be married as children over the next decade, according to the Population Council.In developing countries, girls 15 years of age are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s. According to the United States Agency for International Development, increasing the age at first birth for a woman will increase her chances of survival. Girls with higher levels of schooling are less likely to marry as children. In Mozambique, some 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.More than half of the girls in Bangladesh, Mali, Mozambique and Niger are married before age 18. In these same countries, more than 75 percent of people live on less than $2 a day. In a study in northern Ethiopia, 81% of child brides interviewed described their sexual initiation as forced.

UDHR Violations:Child marriage violates multiple articles in the UDHR. Those articles include Article 3 (The Right to Life), Article 4 (No Slavery), Article 5 (No Torture), and Article 16 (Marriage and Family). Child marriage violates article 3 because it doesn’t allow girls to live in freedom and safety. Child marriage violates article 4 because many children have no control over the situation. According to Anti-Slavery.org “Child marriage can be referred to as slavery if the child has not genuinely given their free and informed consent to enter the marriage, the child is subjected to control and a sense of “ownership” in the marriage itself, particularly through abuse and threats and is exploited by being forced to undertake domestic chores within the marital home or labour outside it, and/or engage in non-consensual sexual relations, and/or if the child cannot realistically leave or end the marriage, leading potentially to a lifetime of slavery.” For example, not being able to financially support themselves or possibly being shunned by the family or community. Child marriage violates article 5 because many girls are put through terrible things by their husband and sometimes his family. An example of a violation article 5 is the following: Saif Allah is a Taliban fighter and an unstable sadist. Over the years he tortured Huma in unimaginable ways. He hung her up by her hair and stuck hot pokers in her body. He broke her legs and ripped out her fingernails. Lastly, child marriage violates article 16 because the girls normally don’t give their free and full consent. Some girls aren’t mature enough to make that kind of decision. According to University of Rochester Medical Center “The rational part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences i won’t be fully developed until age 25 or so.” The International Women’s Health Coalition states “1 in 3 girls in the developing world are married before 18; 1 in 9 are married before the age of 15.”

Strategies On How To End Child Marriage: Since the practice of child marriage is so ingrained in these countries’ cultures, community programs can greatly help. Convincing people to abandon their generations of traditions is not easy, so community programs can prevent child marriage by informing people the dangers of it. Increasing girl’s education and access to education is also vital. Education for girls has shown to lower the rate of child marriages. Educating girls can help them gain confidence and a sense of identity as well as ambitions beyond a husband and family. They are more likely to effect change with a higher level of education. More education also leads to economic opportunities for women. If they are married young, girls are less likely to have a job because they have children to take care of. Incentives for postponed marriages should be in effect. There should be easier and cheaper ways put in place for parents to send their daughters to school.

Which U.N. Sustainability Goals Will Be Most Effected: One of the most impacted goals is goal 1, End poverty in all its forms everywhere. There has been a direct link to child marriage and poverty. For example, girls living in poor households are twice as likely to be married before 18 than girls from richer families. Goal 3 is ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. Girls younger than 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth and face many complications after delivery. The connection between HIV and child marriage is inarguable so if child marriage were to be completely eradicated, the risk for HIV and other STDs would be reduced. Goal 10-Reduce inequality within and among countries, would also show improvement. This goal will be incredibly impacted because if more women and minorities have access to education and economic opportunities, then inequality will reduce. This photo showcases women’s fight for equality in developing countries.

If child marriage continues, the oppression of women in developing countries will continue. Pregnancy before a physically suitable age will also continue, therefore continuing to risk the lives of young girls. HIV and domestic violence will remain a huge problem within child marriages. Political leadership is incredibly important in decreasing and ultimately eradicating these problems. The Bill to Protect Girls in Developing Countries Through the Prevention of Child Marriage can aid in saving, empowering, and educating young girls. This is why the bill needs to be reintroduced to the House of Representatives with the reassurance that the money that would be used for this bill would not be used to perform abortions due to the Helms Amendment from 1973.

Spark Page By: Aden Detres, Julia Hryc, Caitlyn Ostrander, Gabby Ognar, Matthew Sosnowski

Sources: http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/girls-voices/bangladeshi-girls-say-no-child-marriage-words/, http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/how-can-we-end-child-marriage/,http://www.violenceisnotourculture.org/content/humas-story-forced-child-marriage-abuse-torture-escape,https://www.antislavery.org/slavery-today/child-marriage/,http://mashable.com/2016/03/31/syrian-child-brides/#m6M1vAZYsaql,http://www.icrw.org/child-marriage-facts-and-figures/

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