Naila’s husband beat her publicly, dragged her by her hair around his house, raped her, and told her he owned her. “He took a chunk out of my soul that night.”
NEW YORK TO PAKISTAN
“So are you happy to be getting married or you don’t want to?” I was hoping the answer would be the latter. She smiles and replies, “I didn’t think about that. I only know everyone gets married in my village when they are much younger. My uncle’s daughter got married when she turned five. In fact, I am late.”
“He wanted a sexual relationship but I did not even know what that was at the time, and so he started beating me to get it. My hand was fractured, and also my eyes suffered injuries and were severely affected from the beatings. Very early on in the marriage, I fell pregnant twice. Both children died due to my extremely young age. My father is old now, I can’t hurt him by leaving so I will stay – it’s tradition. This is a tradition here in my village (in the Bannu district). Most females get married at 10-12 years old.”
“My husband wanted ‘sex’ from me – but I could not understand what this was, what he wanted … so he forced himself on me. And he beat me up for trying to refuse.”
Nigerian senator marries a 13-year old Egyptian girl. You cannot marry an underage girl in Egypt, so he brought her to Nigeria where nobody will do anything.
Elham Assi, 13, bled to death hours after she spoke to her mother and just days after she was married to a 23-year-old man. According to police notes from the interrogation of the husband, he was upset because he could not consummate their relationship and felt under pressure to prove his manhood.
Assi’s mother said she also tried to persuade her daughter to have sex with her husband so as not to shame the family.
“She looked like she was butchered,” she said about her daughter’s injuries.
“My friend who had already found herself a husband convinced me into marriage. She told me it would be better if I got married like her, so that my husband could take care of my needs.’
But life after her marriage was not what she had expected. Not only was her new husband an alcoholic, he squandered any money he earned – leaving his child bride hungry.
“My grandmother was upset I got married in the first place but didn’t know what to do. With the help of village’s Child Protection Committee, my grandmother helped me escape.”
“Women and girls who are forced to marry find themselves in servile marriages for the rest of their lives,” warned United Nations Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of Slavery, Gulnara Shahinian, on the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. “Nothing can justify these forms of slavery; not traditional, religious, cultural, economic or even security considerations,” the human rights expert underscored.(1)
Child brides are often disempowered, dependent on their husbands and deprived of their fundamental rights to health, education and safety. Neither physically nor emotionally ready to become wives and mothers, child brides are at greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications in pregnancy and childbirth, becoming infected with HIV/AIDS and suffering domestic violence. With little access to education and economic opportunities, they and their families are more likely to live in poverty.(2)
Girls should marry young as it has been going on for generations. Society requires that traditions should be followed and society shames those who venture out of line.
‘We keep a dog to watch the house,
A pig is useful, too
We keep a cat to catch a mouse,
But what can we do with a girl like you?’
– Chinese poem. A Father’s words to his daughter.
In many communities where child marriage is practiced, girls are not valued as much as boys – they are simply seen as a burden.
Give away the daughter in marriage and reduce expenses. The younger the bride, lower would be her asking price or dowry. In communities where the bride’s family gets dowry, how best to earn some money than to give away the baby girl in marriage? Bringing a young bride home is like acquiring a servant to work around the house and the younger the better as they will be more malleable.
Marrying her off will keep my daughter safe!
Safe from sexual assault in crisis areas. Safe from getting into love relationships as that will lead to loss of honor.
Social Pressure & Harassment
The importance attached to a girl’s reputation and the fragility of that reputation means that a girl’s future can easily be damaged simply by rumors. Harassment of threats including threats of kidnapping or assault with little or no support from police or government leaves no option but to marry off the girls young.
RESULTS OPPOSITE INTENT
Governments slow in boldly drafting laws to completely eradicate child marriages are more careful to save their vote banks. Clerics and religious leaders oppose lawmakers ensuring that such practices continue while claiming to protect moral and religious values. The poor remain poor and the girl child continues being the burdensome commodity she was always perceived as.
Shouldn’t this change?
Babatunde Osotimehin, M.D, Executive Director, UNFPA, sums up the ramifications of child marriage when she stated:
“Child marriage is an appalling violation of human rights and robs girls of their education, health and long-term prospects… A girl who is married as a child is one whose potential will not be fulfilled.”
…..And nations are robbed of this invaluable potential. Educating little girls is a necessary investment for a peaceful and poverty-free world. Until we give girls equal access to a good quality education, the world will continue to suffer from child and maternal mortality, disease and other byproducts of poverty.(3) And the vicious cycle will continue!
Change is not just the responsibility of governments and social organizations, it is our duty. Shift in attitude, pride in children irrespective of gender, respect for fellow human being and understanding traditions going beyond social pressures is the only way these pressures can be erased.
Teach your little girl it is okay to dream, show her by practice that she matters, trust in her potential, and give her wings; together societies can march forward.
Human rights is our right. It could be your maid, neighbor, family, someone from the community – SHARE YOUR STORY. Let’s build a community of trust and an environment of awareness.
Let’s rally for change. Let’s live!
4. Feature Image – http://www.newslinemagazine.com/2010/05/save-the-girl/