On a September night in 2013, just after wedding a man 32 years her senior, an eight-year-old suffered from internal bleeding and a ruptured uterus. She later died on her wedding night. Approximately 15 million children are married off to grown men each year. Brash, I know. I thought about sugar coating the introduction to make the article less disturbing, but quickly decided against it. The truth of the matter is, this topic is alarming and unsettling and should be treated as such. In many cases, these young girls are being married off at the delicate age of eight. Imagine that. At eight years old, these girls are robbed of their childhoods and being forced into womanhood before their bodies or minds are even capable of handling such a transition.
Most young girls fantasize about their wedding in one way or another. Personally, since my mother is such a strong promoter of the saying “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, and a Silver Sixpence in her Shoe” I always imagined how I would integrate that into my own ceremony. When I was a child, I had the luxury of daydreaming about what items I would use to fulfill each category of the catchy poem. However, while I was dreaming about my future fairytale matrimony, girls my age were being involuntarily committed to men, often times over twice their age, and learning the brutal reality of being a married adolescent. Now that I am mature enough to fully understand the startling reality of child marriage, I think it might prove useful to apply the verse in the context of these young wives’ nuptials.
The only thing older than the grooms is this heinous tradition. The custom of marrying off young girls to much older men has occurred for hundreds of years. Admittedly, before the 20th century, this practice was pretty common. With life expectancies low and a lack of scientific research to condemn this behavior, this was just a thing that happened. Even so, times have changed and I think it’s safe to say that some serious progression is long overdue.
Recently, research has shown that, on average, the high percentages of child brides are gradually declining. The movement and advocacy against young marriages has also gained momentum and the issue is finally appearing on some development agendas. Although this is reassuring news, these acts of blatant human rights violations still continue to occur.
When looking at a thesaurus, one can learn that a synonym for borrowing is stealing; stealing is definitely more fitting in this context since “borrowing” implies a rather positive connotation. When applying this part of the motto to the suffering girls around the world, the term absolutely shifts to reflect a negative connotation. Their basic rights to a childhood, education, and proper health care are stolen when they are married off so prematurely.
Unfortunately, child brides are extremely susceptible to experience complications with inevitable pregnancies. For girls between the ages of fifteen and nineteen, pregnancy and childbirth are one of the main causes of death in developing countries. Studies have also concluded that women subject to young marriages often suffer from domestic abuse and endure extreme depression.
This is the part of the rhyme that everyone seems to forget. Ironically enough, in the case of child brides, this is the most relevant part of the jingle. Money is the reason families allow, and sometimes encourage, their daughters to be put in the hands of these criminals.
Although we are on the road to achieving victories in stopping these early weddings, our work is not done. Our interest cannot stop here. The only way to truly make an impact is to spread awareness and join the cause to end the existence of child brides, because let’s be honest; if we don’t help these voiceless victims, then who will? For more information on Heart to Soul in Action’s No Child Brides campaign, visit here.