Thursday, 6 July 2017
Report shows one child bride is married every seven seconds
One child bride is married every seven seconds across the world, according to a new report. The Stolen Childhoods report, commissioned by Save the Children, has found that 40 million teenage girls aged between 15 and 19 are currently married worldwide. It is believed that 15 million more teen girls will be married before their 18th birthday, and that every two seconds a girl gives birth.
Child marriage occurs in a number of countries, particularly Niger, where 60 per cent of girls aged between 15 and 19 are married. The effects of child marriage can be devastating, with girls forced into adulthood and motherhood before they are mentally ready. Child brides are often isolated, their freedoms curtailed, and are typically deprived of their rights to health, education and safety.
One 17-year-old Afghan girl, Majerah, who is quoted in the report, said she was forced into early marriage at the age of 14 to a man 10 years her senior.
“I was studying and working hard with the hope to become a doctor,” she said. “I wanted to be able to help other women. Even though my family was poor, I always focused on my studies, disregarding the difficulties of my life. When my father decided to marry me off, I was heartbroken. Nobody asked or cared.
“I never had a chance to enjoy my childhood. I was forced into an adult life way too early.”
She had to leave school when she got married, even though she was the best pupil in her class, and now lives with her husband and her in-laws in a small house, where she is treated like a slave. Majerah has been unable to have a child, and has been hit by her husband several times and told he will remarry if she does not give birth in the next few months.
“All my dreams have been shattered forever,” said Majerah. “I feel I am not alive anymore. One cannot live without hopes and dreams.”
About 20 percent of Afghan girls aged 15-19 are married or living in union. The legal age of marriage is 16 for girls and 18 for boys, but there is limited enforcement of this law. The Stolen Childhoods report also found that 17 million girls give birth every year, with 90 per cent of these births happening within marriage or a union. Often, this can lead to devastating physical and mental consequences, with complications from childbirth the second leading cause of death for adolescent girls across the world.
In total, the Stolen Childhoods report found that at least 700 million children around the world have had their childhoods brought to an early end - be it via early marriage, child labour, poor health or extreme violence and conflict. Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children, said: “Children growing up in war, being targeted by violent groups, suffering and dying from disease, and experiencing harsh discrimination, are being robbed of everything that makes them children. It is unacceptable that in 2017, millions of children around the world still do not have their right to be safe, learn, grow and play. We must, and we can, do better than this.
“Although most of the worst performing countries are located in West and Central Africa, there are signs of hope and progress. In fact, since 1990, the region has cut deaths under the age of five by half. This shows that by making deliberate choices to invest in children's health and well-being change is possible."
The charity is now calling on global governments to ensure no child child dies from preventable or treatable causes or is subjected to extreme violence; is robbed of a future as a result of malnutrition, early or forced marriage, early pregnancy, or forced labour; and that they have access to a quality education.
"In 2015, the world made a promise that by 2030, all children be would be in school, protected, and healthy, regardless of who they are, and where they live,” said Watkins.
“Although this is an ambitious target, it's within reach if governments invest in all children to guarantee they have the full childhood they deserve.”