Throughout the world, marriage is regarded as a moment of celebration and a milestone in adult life. Sadly, in this forum discussion makes clear; the practice of early marriage gives no such cause for celebration. All too often, the imposition of a marriage partner upon a child means that a girl or boy’s childhood is cut short and their fundamental rights are compromised.
We have encountered the phenomena of child marriage and early marriage on numerous occasions. While much of the impact remains hidden, it is absolutely clear that millions of children and young people – particularly girls – suffer negative consequences. This discussion looks at the reasons for the perpetuation of early marriage, and its possible increase in populations under stress. A key factor is poverty, with the marriage of children often seen as a strategy for economic survival. In addition, it is perceived as a way to protect girls and to provide some stability in situations where societies are under extreme pressure. This discussion also examines the harmful impact of the practice. We have received countless reports of complications and even death in pregnancy and childbirth of wives too young to safely bear children. We have seen child wives who should be in school or playing, working in near slave-like conditions in the homes of their in-laws. We have reviewed education statistics revealing the large numbers of children, particularly girls, who drop out of school because of early marriage. And we have heard so many married women of all ages lament the fact that they cannot even read because they had to leave school early to be married.
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