Child marriage is a human rights abuse. It constitutes a grave threat to young girls’ lives, health and future prospects. Marriage for girls can lead to complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, and in developing countries these are the main causes of death among 15–19 year-old girls. Girls who are married are also exposed to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. For a girl, marriage can mean the end of her education, can set aside her chances of a vocation or career, and can steal from her foundation life choices.
Child marriage is widespread in Zambia; even though the legal age of marriage is 21 for both males and females.18 Customary law and practice discriminate against girls and women with respect to inheritance, property, and divorce rights. Domestic violence is a serious problem, with over half of married girls reporting ever experiencing physical violence and more than a third reporting abuse in the past year. Nationwide, 8 percent of girls were married by age 15, and 42 percent were married by age 18. Zambia is highly urban (42 percent of its young women live in urban areas), and marital patterns differ strongly by area of residence.
In trying to curb this issue we could:
- Engage communities through public campaigns, pledges, or incentive schemes.
- Publicize and enforce the national law that establishes 21 as the legal age of marriage.
- Raise the awareness of parents, community leaders, and policymakers about the health and rights implications of young girls marrying much older men.
- Develop special social and health support structures for young, first-time mothers.
- Encourage governments and communities to commit to getting girls to school on time and to keeping them in school through the secondary level. Being in school during adolescence has important health and development benefits for girls.
- Develop social and economic programs for out-of-school girls, including informal education programs.
CAUSES OF EARLY MARRIAGES (TAKING ZAMBIA AS A CASE STUDY)
- Poverty puts great pressure on families. Cases are reported of girls whose school fees are “sponsored” by a male relative and sexual favours are expected in return.
- Orphans are particularly vulnerable to economic pressures within the family, especially when they are taken in by members of the extended family who are already caring for a number of school-going children.
The culture of silence has caused this disease of child marriage to continue occurring. Child marriage often occurs in the shadows of poverty and gender inequality, impeding efforts to empower girls and boys and achieve long-term, sustainable development. It is both a symptom and a cause of ongoing development challenges, as the practice of child marriage further contributes to economic hardship, human rights violations, and under-investment in the educational and health care needs of children. Child marriage limits young girls’ skills, resources, knowledge, social support, mobility and autonomy. Young married girls have little power in relation to their husbands and in-laws. They are therefore extremely vulnerable to domestic violence, abuse and abandonment. Violence may include physical, sexual or psychological abuse. For this scrounging issue, we have to obligate ourselves to finding an African solution for the problem, and also a means for smearing the solution even in the most rural and crude areas.