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When the brides are too young

When the brides are too young

When the brides are too young
November 21
14:20 2017

Eva Reinoso Tejada

I had a particularly hard time reading the story we are publishing on page 20 of this edition. It talks about child marriage. It talks about how the federal government of Mexico is putting pressure on the local government of Chihuahua to make child marriage illegal. Somehow, I had forgotten about this issue.

I remember Milagros, my mom’s best friend in Venezuela. She always told me the story of how she got married when she was 12. She was the mother of two of my best friends. To be honest, I wasn’t too alarmed. Somehow, I thought that 12-year-olds in her time were different than myself at the same age. Sometimes it is hard to imagine your parents and their friends as children. You think they were ‘always adults’. My mother, herself, got married when she was 17, and she always drilled the notion in my head that I should never get married that young. Reading the Chihuahua story, and seeing those pictures of girls with a baby on one hand and a cell phone on the other hand, made me cringe. It also made me research some statistics on the topic. This is what I found:

As expected, the biggest incidence of child marriage occurs in the developing world, where one third of girls are married before the age of 18, and 1 in 9 are married before the age of 15. It is common to see a higher incidence of child marriage -double, to be more precise- in poor households than in higher income households. It is also more common in the poorest countries, most noticeably in Bangladesh, Mali, Mozambique and Niger. Pregnancy and childbirth is the leading cause of death for girls between the ages of 15 and 19 worldwide. They also have a higher incidence of HIV, since they often marry older men, with more sexual experience.

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. It wouldn’t surprise me that it occurs everywhere that girls are getting married that young, not only in India.

I also watched a video that has been circling Facebook that was a ‘social experiment’ where a very old man, probably in his seventies was taking wedding pictures with a twelve-year-old on the street. It is easy to see that the experiment takes place in a big city in the U.S. It is amazing to see the reaction of the bystanders. Some people even try to take the girl away from the man. Others question him. His answer is “Her parents gave me permission.” It was also funny to see comments of angry Facebook users who would write terrible things about the guy just to later realize that it was an experiment. What a good experiment! Making people react about something that is simply wrong.

I know it is wrong, probably most of you reading this agree that it is wrong. The problem is that in the places where this happens the most, most likely the girl’s parents think it is right! Maybe poverty, or cultural costumes find it normal or appropriate. Maybe it has been done for generations and it is culturally accepted.

The last and most compelling statistic I found is the relationship between child marriage and education. “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. Educating adolescent girls has been a critical factor in increasing the age of marriage in a number of developing countries, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand,” as explained by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW). It is obvious that education could play a key role in changing these numbers.

I hope that reading this made you feel as sad as I felt writing it. I hope that the more we talk about it, the more we ‘make it wrong’ in the eyes of the world. That way, we will be adding a little grain of sand to help this cause, that touches women in a very deep way. In the age of #MeToo, where abuse is being called out, I figured we can raise our voices for those who can’t or won’t.

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Edición Virtual | #323 | 11 de octubre 2018

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