According to Global Citizen.org, between 2011 and 2020 an estimated 140 million girls around the world under the age of 18 became child brides. Many of these young girls are turned into brides as young as 12, in which case they are not fully developed or ready for an adult relationship. Nevertheless, these adolescents are betrothed to older men against their will, sometimes twice and even three times their age. Moreover, although not as prevalent as in developing countries, even America has its share of marriages among minor children. Over the last 15 years about 200,000 children under the age of 18 were married in the United States. In addition, in 2001 PBS’s Frontline reported that in Alabama a 74 year old man married a 14 year old girl. Unfortunately, the troubling phenomenon is that when it comes to child marriages, young ladies are usually the victims, with 87% females affected vs 13% of male victims.
However, Why Do Some States/Countries Ban the Practice While Others Allow It?…..TRADITION
The ugly truth is that in some cultures arranged, forced and child marriages are simply a part of life. Unfortunately, up until the 20th Century child marriages were far more prevalent due to the nature of society. In the past there were far less populates necessary for procreation, and the life expectancy for adults rarely stretched past 45 – 50 years old. In addition, in early history we have seen that most work was completed in the agricultural field. Therefore, there was a great need for families to produce many children to help with the farming, housework, and other daily chores. Subsequently, it was seen as practical for a 14 or 15 year old girl to be handed to a 25 or 27 year old farmer to produce a loving family (which even happened with my grandparents).
For example, I look back at beautiful, warm, family friendly images of old westerns like the Waltons or Little House on the Prairie, where young girls happily married slightly older “gentlemen” that took care of them, provided well for them, and loved them gingerly. When I see these images I always get a warm cozy feeling. However, throughout my readings on American and foreign cultures, that image of young girls finding themselves in loving relationships with older men was rarely the reality for many young brides.
Unfortunately, many young brides experienced rape, abuse, neglect, starvation, and even in some cases death. In 2013 NBC News reported that an 8 year old child bride died on her wedding night, after having sex with her 40 year old husband. The 8 year old died of bleeding and uterine rupture (NBC News). However, the family was never charged for delivering their child to a man almost 5 times older than her. Furthermore, after having to endure a new, awkward and painful, sexual experience that they are often not ready for, young pregnant girls have a 5 to 7 higher chance of dying in childbirth (WorldAtlas.com). And if the girls do survive childbirth, they are usually regulated to remain in their home, under their husband’s rule, without the possibility of obtaining education or any type of higher knowledge. Just a lifetime of domination, servitude, and grief.
So, What IS the Answer?
The only answer to combatting this dangerous phenomenon is through education and support. Education first because what you don’t know, you don’t know. For example, I spoke with several people just in Maryland that thought all states in the U.S. required adults to be at least 21 years old to marry (even in Maryland the legal age is 16). Well this is just not true. In Massachusetts young girls can marry as young as 12 years old with parental consent (US Marriage Laws.com).
However, According to Frontline.org the direction of child marriage in America seems to be changing courses rather quickly. Between 2000 to 2010 child marriages in the US sank from 23,582 to 9,247. In addition, as of July 2021 six states (New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Rhode Island and New York) have banned underage marriages with no exceptions. On top of that, recently the Philippines even banned child marriages, ending hundreds of years of oppression for young girls (Newsweek, 2022)
Nevertheless, our work is not done until all girls have the opportunity to naturally develop into strong, educated, women that control their own lives, loves, and destiny. Therefore, we must continue to read, discuss these issues with family members, and support International Outreach groups like #Unicef , #Breakthrough Global, #Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), #GirlsNotBrides and more.
Check out 16 incredible organizations here: https://16days.thepixelproject.net/16-organisations-working-to-stop-child-marriage/,
No matter what age you may be, you can help fight Child Marriages.
For Full References Email: Amoore@TheATMBiz.com