Archive for the child marriage Category

Turning the Tide: Part 1

Posted in abortion, activism, child abuse, child marriage, child molestation, child pornography, child prostitution, child rape, Defining Violence, domestic violence, dowry crimes, elderly abuse, female genital mutilation, female infanticide, feminism, gender stereotypes, gender violence, HIV, honour crimes, human rights, India, intimate partner violence, mail-order brides, male perpetration, men, misogyny, molestation, pedophile, pedophiles, pedophilia, politics, porn, Pro-Feminist Men, Prostitution & Trafficking, rape, reproductive rights, sati, school violence, sex selective abortion, sex trafficking, sexual assault, sexual harassment, single mothers, slavery, social work, son preference, united nations, war, widow cleansing on December 6, 2007 by breatheinspirit

The below text is copyright, Broken Bodies – Broken Dreams: Violence against Women Exposed

The fight to end violence against women is both historic and universal. Historic, because gender inequality, which lies at the root of this violence, has been embedded in human history for centuries and the movement to end it challenges history, custom and, most critically, the status quo. Universal, because no society is an exception to the fact that violence against women is perpetrated through social and cultural norms that reinforce male-dominated power structures. The struggle is nothing less than a demand for full human rights to be unconditionally extended to all people everywhere.Those engaged in this struggle recognize that despite important advances that have laid the foundation for universal human rights, the work has only just begun. In October 2004, on the 25th anniversary of the landmark Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the committee monitoring international implementation stated, “In no country in the world has women’s full de jure and de facto equality been achieved.”

In most countries, in fact, the reality remains bleak. Discriminatory social norms and practices continue to impede women’s full enjoyment of their human rights. Insufficient political will, the extensive under representation of women in decision-making positions and a lack of resources to address the issue are further impediments to progress.

Asserting human rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted without dissent by the United Nations in 1948, recognizes the “equal and inalienable rights” of all people, “without distinction of any kind.” Violence against women contravenes a number of the fundamental human rights laid out in this Declaration such as the right to security of person; the right not to be held in slavery or subjected to inhuman treatment; the right to equal protection before the law; and the right to equality in marriage. Nevertheless, states sometimes deploy the argument of cultural relativism to defend practices that abuse women. According to the first United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, “The universal standards of human rights are often denied full operation when it comes to the rights of women.”

This book highlights through written description and visual representation many of the persistent expressions of gender-based violence. The testimonies of women and girls emphasise that there is no room for complacency or a false sense of rapid progress in the fight against inequality. To the countless women still suffering today, any positive changes that have been achieved must bear little relevance to their immediate reality. Nevertheless, remarkable developments have taken place in recent years, due in large part to the commitment of a few to change the behavior of many. In the face of formidable forces maintaining the patriarchal systems that give rise to both discrimination and violence against women, there is evidence that the tide may be turning.

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Sexual Assault and Harassment: Part 2

Posted in child marriage, child rape, Defining Violence, feminism, gender stereotypes, gender violence, intimate partner violence, male perpetration, rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment on December 4, 2006 by breatheinspirit

The below text is copyright, “Broken Bodies – Broken Dreams: Violence against Women Exposed“:

“Generating reliable data on sexual violence

According to a sexual violence expert from the United States, “rape appears in many guises” and, as such, requires careful investigative methods that capture the range of women’s and girl’s experiences. When researchers use narrow definitions of sexual violence, the reported rates of sexual crimes are likely to be relatively low. Crime-victim surveys reflect this: While they are useful because of their broad scope and comparable methodology, questions on sexual violence may not discriminate between different types of sexual assaults and/or perpetrators. In data presented by the WHO on a select number of crime-victim surveys, rates of reported sexual victimization (recorded in the five years to each survey) range from less than 2 percent in Bolivia, Botswana, China and the Philippines to 5 percent or more in Albania, Argentina, Brazil and Columbia.

Although still scarce and somewhat difficult to compare because of differences in data-collection techniques and definitions used, more targeted sexual violence surveys typically generate higher rates of reporting among participants. A variety of such surveys from the United States, for example, suggest that between 14 percent and 20 percent of the general population of women in that country will be raped at least once in their lifetime. In the Czech Republic, 11.6 percent of women responding to a national survey reported that they had experienced forced sexual contact, most commonly in the form of vaginal intercourse. Forty percent of a random sample of 420 women in Toronto, Canada, reported at least one episode of forced sexual intercourse since the age of 16. Specific subgroups are at an even greater risk. Research from the United States on women with disabilities, for example, indicates they are at one-and-a-half time greater risk of sexual victimization than women without disabilities.

The use of explicit questions in these surveys helps to overcome underreporting related to biases or preconceptions associated with the semantics of rape. Even employing the language of forced or coerced sex, rather than rape, can produce more accurate estimates of women’s and girl’s exposure to sexual violence. In a South African Study, 11 percent of the adolescents surveyed said they had been raped, but further 72 percent reported being subjected to forced sex. A survey of unmarried adolescents seeking abortions in 17 hospitals in China found that 48 percent had experienced sexual coercion at least once.

An increasing number of studies have focused on the issue of coerced or forced sexual initiation among adolescent girls. Average estimates of coerced first sex among adolescents around the world range from 10 percent to 30 percent, but in some settings, such as Cameroon and Peru, the number is closer to 40 percent. In a survey of high school students in Korea, 39 percent of sexually active females reported that their first experience of sex was the result of force or pressure from their partner. Studies of nine countries in the Caribbean estimated that incidents of forced first intercourse were as high as 48 percent.

 Identifying the Perpetrators

Many studies have confirmed that most perpetrators of sexual violence are known to the victim. In fact, according to the WHO, “One of the most common forms of sexual violence around the world is that which is perpetrated by an intimate partner.” In a recent study of a representative sample of married and unmarried young men and women in Kenya, more than one in five sexually experienced young women had been subjected to nonconsensual sex. Those who had been married were at a greater risk of coercion than respondents who had never been married, and husbands were often identified as perpetrators. Other studies from around the world that have specifically investigated intimate-partner violence suggest that on average one in five women has been forced to have sex by her partner – in some settings those numbers are much higher. In general, sexual assaults by intimate partners are reported tow to eight times more often than assaults by strangers.

One sexual violence expert concluded, “The most important lesson learned about interpersonal violence in the past 20 years is how frequently it is perpetrated by apparently normal individuals.” Rather than verifying assumptions that rape is committed by a small number of disturbed men, research suggests that many men around the world share the attitudes and beliefs necessary to commit an act of sexual violence. In other words, the “high prevalence of rape largely reflects a high level of social tolerance of the crime.”

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The Prevalence of Male perpetration

Posted in child abuse, child marriage, domestic violence, gender violence, male perpetration, rape on October 25, 2006 by breatheinspirit

The below text is copyright, “Broken Bodies – Broken Dreams: Violence against Women Exposed”: 

“The overwhelming majority of violence against women and girls is committed every day and in every nation by men. Where sexual violence and exploitation takes place against men and/or boys, the perpetrators are, again, overwhelmingly male. In categories where violence is embedded in tradition, such as child marriage, female genital mutilation and “honour” crimes, women may also play an active role.

Despite the progress that has been made to introduce legal and social reforms to address gender inequality, violence against women and girls continues. Evidence suggests, in fact, that violations such as trafficking, rape, child abuse, child prostitution and pornography are on the rise. The majority of studies of gender-based violence echo the findings of two psychologists whose research led them to conclude, “Most sexual offenders are men. Men commit most of the aberrant and deviant sexual behaviours such as rape, child molestation and exhibitionism. …” Furthermore, and more relevantly, when females are involved in aberrant or illegal sexual behaviour, coercion and violence is less commonly employed.

Even though most acts of violence are committed by men – and studies confirm that men have a higher propensity for violent behaviour than women – not all men behave violently. Are men genetically motivated, or hard-wired, in a significantly different way than women? Or does society teach the sexes to act the way they do?

The nature/nurture polarity

Most researchers reject the notion that biology can be blamed for violent behavior. Male violence, they say, is not genetically based but is instead perpetuated by a model of masculinity that permits and even encourages men to be aggressive. “Men’s monopoly of violence stems from lifelong training in sexist models of masculinity.” Anthropological research shows that domestic violence is virtually nonexistent in some societies, and therefore not an inevitable human condition.

Generally, the “nurture” position rejects the idea that men have a natural propensity to violence of that men have “uncontrollable” violent and sexual urges. In the case of intimate-partner abuse, for example, observers point out that men are able to control themselves in settings where the social or professional cost of their behavior would be too high, but are unwilling to exercise the same restraint when they are behind closed doors.

Those advancing this perspective challenge apologists for male violence, who use biological arguments or the “psychopathological model” for male sexual violence to explain men’s behavior. Instead, they insist that these men are not “sick” or pathological and are responsible for their actions, behaving reprehensibly, with free, conscious choice.

The counterargument to this opinion – which is regularly reinforced and perpetuated via popular culture and religious dogma – claims that men are captive of their libidos. This view maintains that the historic and global evidence of male’s natural aggression and the biological imperative cannot be ignored. While socialization may play an important role in how people behave in different societies and at different points in history, the “nature” position argues that sexual violence is too widespread and too overwhelmingly perpetrated by males to suggest that men and women are not motivated by different forces. These arguments appear to echo 19th-century pseudo-medical claims promoted by some scientists that men were a breed apart and slaves to uncontrollable testosterone, where male promiscuity is seen as a critical vestige of evolutionary forces conferring “selective advantage” on men who impregnate multiple partners.

Other theorists, however, are situated between the two poles of “nature” and “nurture”. They acknowledge a degree of “natural male inclination”, which in combination with repeated negative socialisation reinforces violent characteristics. In patriarchal societies, a significant manifestation of male aggression is man’s perpetration of sexual coercion and violence against women.

Popular perceptions

Irrespective of this debate, there is a virtually univeral de facto acceptance amongst people and communities worldwide that men and women have different natures and different roles to play. Whatever the origin of male violence, most people are caught up in their societies and the times they live and, as a result, may play a strong part in the maintenance of these stereotypes.

In many countries, gender roles are deeply entrenched and reinforced by cultural norms, to such an extent that questioning the status quo involves risk. Even in countires that are seemingly less bound by tradition, where equal rights are codified in law and widely accepted, these stereotypes still dominate the popular mindset.

The United States and Australia are examples of industrialized countries where sexual stereotyping and violence-supporting attitudes remain entrenched among the majority. High incidents of rape, domestic abuse and child abuse in these countries are thought to be linked to a general acceptance of these stereotypes. One study recently estimated that during a 12-month period in the United States, more than 302,000 women and almost 93,000 men experienced a completed or attempted rape. In a 1995 study in Australia, 37 percent of the male participants disagreed with the statement that “Women rarely make false claims of rape.” One in six respondents to the survey agreed that “Women who are raped often ask for it.” Rape is, of course, only an indirect indicator of such beliefs or stereotypes.

Psychological research demonstrates strong evidence that violence is a learned behavior that may be passed down the generations. “The highest risk marker for a man to use violence against his wife and child is early exposure to violence in his childhood home.” A negative finding when one considers the current number of boys witnessing their fathers’ violent behavior, but also one that offers hope, perhaps, that nonviolence can be similarly learned. ”

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Child Marriage: Part 2

Posted in child abuse, child marriage, child rape, domestic violence, gender violence, politics on September 12, 2006 by breatheinspirit

The below text is copyright, “Broken Bodies – Broken Dreams: Violence against Women Exposed.”:

“The Legal Context

Despite national and international law pertaining to minimum age and consent in marriage, many young girls around the world are still at risk. In 15 countries, the legal age of marriage is 16. Even when legal protections against child marriage do exist, they may be ambiguous, allow for dual existence of customary and civil law and have limited enforcement mechanisms. Some legal provisions, for example, may allow traditional law to override statutory law, and therefore restrictions against early marriage in state law may not apply to customary marriages.

Moreover, in countries “where there is a discrepancy between the minimum age of marriage for boys and girls, it is consistently lower for girls.” According to CEDAW, these discrepancies “assume incorrectly that women have a different rate of intellectual development from men, or that their stage of physical and intellectual development at marriage is immaterial.” The national laws of Cameroon, Jordan, Morocco, Uganda and Yemen do not specifically accord women the right to consent before marriage. Among the “vast majority” of countries around the world that have codified a women’s equal right to choose a marriage partner, legal provisions are often “merely symbolic” – and as a result unenforced or subject to wide exceptions.

Legislative provisions in many countries allow for child marriage with parental consent, which in the context of traditional societies does little to preserve the rights of girl children. In Algeria, Chad, Costa Rica, Lebanon, Libya, Romania and Uruguay, the law allows a perpetrator of rape – including rape of a minor – to be pardoned of his crime if he marries his victim. In the case of a young victim, stigma, shame, coercion and ignorance of the law, along with a multitude of other factors, may prevent her from exercising her legal right to refuse such a marriage. In Ethiopia, illegal “abduction marriages”, where men kidnap young girls and consummate the marriage with rape, remain prevalent in some rural settings. In a study conducted among 227 Ethiopian wives, 60 percent said they had been abducted before age 15, and 93 percent before age 20.

The failure to prioritize women’s and girl’s rights

Child marriage predominates in traditional societies around the world, where the desires and needs of parents and community may override considerations for the individual development and wellbeing of a girl child. The patriarchal values buttressing these cultures further erode any rights that might otherwise be afforded a young girl. The fact that marrying young maximizes a female’s reproductive lifespan and thus ensures large families justifies the custom of child marriage and ignores the health impact of such a tradition on young wives.

The prevalence of child marriage also may be linked to the economics of poverty. Young girls in certain communities in Africa will generate more bride price because as virgins they are less likely to have HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Conversely, African parents in resource-poor settings who are worried about not being able to find men who can afford a high bride price may prevent a daughter from completing schooling for fear that an education will increase her cost. Once a girl has left school, she is much more likely to get married. In the Asian societies where dowry customs dominate, girls may be married off early because dowry doubles once a girl matures. In Bangladesh, for example, dowry doubles once a girl reaches the age of 15, because she is considered less “marriageable”.

Other motives for child marriage include controlling a young girl’s sexuality and curbing any manifestations of independence. Committing a pubescent or even prepubescent girl to marriage reduces the likelihood of premarital liaisons, which is important when the sexual purity of girls and women is seen as a community prerogative and the basis of family and tribal honour. In societies where subservience to husbands is requisite in marriage, young brides offer the additional benefit of being easier to mould into deferential wives.

Child marriage and gender-based violence

Child marriage is a form of gender-based violence that leads to a range of other forms of violence. Research suggests, for example, that sexual assault may be more common among wives who marry young, due at least in part to the power inequities between older husbands and younger wives. Indian girls from Calcutta who married early reported that their husbands had forced them to have intercourse before they had started menstruating. Despite protestations of pain and lack of desire, 80 percent of these girls said that their husbands continue to force them to have sexual relations.

Girls who marry early may also be at greater risk of physical violence at the hands of their husbands and in-laws. In Jordan, 26 percent of domestic incidents reported in 2000 were committed against wives who were under age 18. As with sexual violence, this increased risk may be associated with age and power differentials. Lack of social networks and economic assets, as well as low self-esteem, make child brides less likely to leave abusive husbands and more likely to tolerate the abuse. In studies in Benin, India and Turkey, for example, 62 percent to 67 percent of young wives – as opposed to 36 percent and 42 percent of older wives – believed that their husbands were justified in using physical violence against them.

Girls who try to escape early or abusive marriages risk retribution from their husbands as well as their natal families, including further abuse, imprisonment or even death. The Commission on the Status of Women in Pakistan, where the honour killings are often linked to domestic violence, reported in 1989 that “men are constantly fighting to retrieve their women because they have run away.” Data from prisons in Afghanistan’s capital city in Kabul in 2004 indicated that the majority of female inmates had been married before age 16, and that incarceration was highly correlated to child marriage. “Zabia” is one such case:

“When [Zabia] was 10 years old her parents sold her in marriage to a 50-year-old man who was deaf and dumb. She was raped on her wedding night. In the years that followed, [Zabia] ran away to her father’s house some seven or eight times. Every time she returned, her father beat her and held her in chains until her husband came to retrieve her. She finally escaped to the city, where she met a kind woman who took her in. After some time, [Zabia] met a young male relative of the woman, became engaged and married him. She had been happily married for six months and was pregnant when she told her second husband her true history. The second husband, who accepted her past, went to meet [Zabia’s] parents to tell them of her whereabouts and happy marriage and invited them to visit their daughter. Instead, [Zabia’s} parents reported the couple to the police, who imprisoned them for illegal marriage.”

Husbands of young wives are often significantly older, and therefore more likely to die before their wives. While it may seem a reprieve in cases of violent marriages, lack of property or inheritance rights, as well as high rates of illiteracy among young brides, puts those widows at great risk for multiple forms of exploitation. In certain parts of India, a girl whose husband has died may be given in nata to a widower in the family. Although officially designated his wife, she may become “the common property of all the men in the family.” In parts of Africa, a widow is remarried, according to the practice of levirate, to a brother of her deceased husband. Any resulting children are given the name of the deceased husband, thus ensuring the continuation of his lineage. If a widow refuses to marry her brother-in-law, she not only risks being cast out of his family, but also losing custody of her children and any rights to her husband’s property. Widowed women also can be traded as commodities in dispute negotiations between families or communities – given as a wife, for example, from one family to another to reinstate the honour of an aggrieved man and his clan.

The multiple health risks of child marriage

In addition to the physical dangers associated with domestic violence, child marriage poses many other health risks. Because of the greater permeability of their vaginal tissue and other biological factors like hormone fluctuations, girls are more vulnerable than mature women to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Their age, limited life experience and inferior status also make it more difficult for young wives to negotiate safer sex.

While marriage to girls is considered a protective measure for husbands, it may have the opposite effect on their wives, especially in polygynous societies. In a recent study undertaken in Rwanda and cited in a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report on child marriages, 25 percent of girls who became pregnant at 17 or younger were infected with HIV, even though many reported only having sex with their husbands. The study found that a higher incidence of HIV infection was directly correlated to a younger age of sexual intercourse and first pregnancy. In findings from rural Uganda, girls aged 13 to 19 who were HIV-positive were twice as likely to be married as girls who were HIV-negative. For young wives, “abstinence is not an option – those who try to negotiate condom use commonly face violence and rejection.”

The leading cause of death for 15- to 19-year-old girls worldwide is complications from pregnancy and child-bearing. According to public-health experts, for every girl that dies during pregnancy or childbirth, 30 more will suffer injuries, infections and disabilities. And the risks are not limited to the mother: If a girl is under the age of 18 when she gives birth, her baby’s chance of dying in its first year of life is 60 percent higher than that of a baby born to an older mother. Moreover, the extended reproductive span of a girl who is married early puts her and her children at risk due to a greater number of pregnancies and deliveries. According to one study, women who marry before age 19 will have two to four times more children than those who marry after age 25.

The additional burden of obstetric fistula

One of the most physically and psychologically debilitating effects of early child-bearing is fistula, a rupture of tissue that results in an opening between the vagina and the bladder or the rectum, or both, which is reparable only with surgery. Primarily caused by obstructed labour, fistula is closely linked to marriage and child-bearing among girls between 10 and 15 years of age. In one 1995 study in Niger, for example, 88 percent of women with fistula were in this age group when they were married. As will all pregnancy-related injuries, young married girls in resource-poor settings are least likely to get treatment for fistula. With leaking urine and feces, a malodorous girl suffering an untreated fistula is likely to be ostracized by her community and divorced by her husband.

Child marriage is so common in Ethiopia that doctors at the Fistula Hospital, based in the capital city of Addis Ababa, operate on approximately 1,200 girls a year. Those who are of and manage to find transport to the hospital are probably only a small proportion of the young women needing treatment.

An urgent human rights concern

The Forum on Marriage and the Rights of Women and Girls, from which much of the information included in this chapter has been drawn, is a network of nongovernmental organizations with international affiliates that shares “a vision of marriage as a sphere in which women and girls have inalienable rights.” The early work of the Forum highlighted the fact that very little is being achieved at either the international or national level to address the global problem of child marriage.

The Forum’s most recent report in 2003 emphasized that there is considerable work to be done to end the practice of child marriage. Much of this effort involves lobbying governments to adopt and enforce laws that both prohibit child marriage and ensure that girls have equal access to education. Just as important, however, is changing the attitude and behavior of community and religious leaders, whose complicity allows child marriage to continue. Finally, the Forum asked for increased support to programs that empower young girls, to help them realize that their futures need not be preordained by customs that deprive them of their rights to mental, social and physical wellbeing.
Agencies such as the United Nations Fund for Population Assistance and UNICEF have started to demand action to end child marriage, while international nongovernmental organizations, including Population Council and the International Center for Research on Women, have pioneered initiatives to research child marriage, raise awareness and inform policy discussion. Despite some of these gains, the magnitude of the problem requires greater effort, not only through prevention, but also through prevention, but also through supporting girls who are already in child marriages. Policy makers, elected officials and community and religious leaders, as well as individuals, all have a critical role in making a difference in the lives of girls and young women.”

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Child Marriage

Posted in child abuse, child marriage, feminism, politics on September 11, 2006 by breatheinspirit

The below text is copyright, “Broken Bodies – Broken Dreams: Violence against Women Exposed.”: 

What is child marriage?

The Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (IAC) defines child marriage as “any marriage carried out below the age of 18 years, before the girl is physically, physiologically, and psychologically ready to shoulder the responsibilities of marriage and childbearing.” An array of international instruments – including the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1979 United Nations’ Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the 1990 African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child – echoes the perspective of the IAC: that marriage decisions should be the preserve of consenting adults. Children have the right to be protected from prematurely assuming the responsibilities of adulthood, especially marriage and child-bearing.

Even though some countries permit marriage before age 18, international human rights standards classify these as child marriages, reasoning that those under age 18 are unable to give informed consent. Child marriages involving parental, partner and/or social influence, collusion or pressure are, de facto, forced – regardless of the extent of enthusiasm or acquiescence of the child designated in marriage. In many settings, however, these basic standards are considered irrelevant rather than universal and – even more pointedly and dismissively – “Western”. In Ethiopia, where more than half of all girls are married before age 18 and medical problems associated with early child-bearing are rife, one Orthodox priest insisted, “These days, with Western ideas spreading everywhere, girls stay unmarried as late as 30. It’s all very scientific and modern, but in our church it is prohibited. Such girls are neither clean nor blessed.”

The unsurprising upshot of such perceptions resounds in the chatter of 12-year-old Deepali from Bangladesh, who has embraced her society’s perception that a girl’s worth is measured by her ability to marry at a young age:

“People say I’m very fortunate to have been born so fair, so beautiful. My parents had no problems finding an eligible husband for me. Unlike my dark cousin Maya, who is 13 and still unmarried! I also don’t have to go to school anymore. But Maya – she has to go to school until she gets married.”

Others do not embrace their fate as easily as Deepali. Girls in focus group discussions in Afghanistan, for example, repeatedly identified child marriage as a major concern in their lives. Even those as young as 10 or 11 years of age understood that marriage and schooling for Afghan girls are almost always mutually exclusive. In Afghanistan, as in many other parts of the world, losing out on an education is just one of a broad spectrum of consequences of child marriage for a young girl.

The extent of the problem

The implications of child marriage are all the more alarming given its scope: Around the world, a projected 82 million girls who are now between the ages of 10 and 17 will be married before their 18th birthdays. OF the 331 million girls aged 10 to 19 in developing countries (excluding China), nearly hald will be married before turning 20. Although many marriages coincide with a girl’s first menstrual period, girls in some communities may be betrothed in infancy and married as early as age eight or nine.

Many of these young wives live in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where on average one in every three girls between the ages of 15 and 19 is already married. In Central America and the Caribbean, the numbers are slightly better at an estimated 20 percent. And those averages do not capture the remarkable extremes: Two out of every three girls in Yemen, Mali, Nepal, and Mozambique will be married before age 18. In Niger, Bangladesh, and Chad, the prevalence of underage marriages is as high as 70 percent to 80 percent.

Child marriage is both a cause and a consequence of poverty. While the marriage of young girls and boys is common in the history of most societies around the globe, the average age of wedlock in the world’s industrialized regions has risen along with social and economic development. Only 2 percent to 4 percent of girls in North America, East Asia and Western Europe marry before age 19. By not marrying at a young age, girls in these areas have greater opportunity to complete their education, increase life skills and develop a sense of personal autonomy. As such, they are better equipped to contribute to society, whether in the public or private spheres. Even among the small percentage of girls who do wed at an early age in these regions, entering the marriage is much more likely to be the result of personal choice rather than pressure from parents and community.

Child marriage and its negative consequences are also decidedly gender-biased. The number of boys in child marriages around the world is significantly lower than that of girls. In sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, for example, only 5 percent of boys marry before age 19. For most boys who do become young husbands, child marriage is not the harbinger of misfortune that it is for many girl wives. Boys from traditional societies who marry at a young age are less likely than girls to be strictly bound by their family responsibilities. Whereas girls who marry early automatically attain the status of adults and loose any special protections that come with being a child, boys have more freedom to continue their education and acquire skills that will further their personal and social development.

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