Child

Child Brides Find Help From Hindu Priests
One of many child brides posing in a wedding dress.

Child brides face many more health issues than if they wait to get married.

Child brides may not be a huge problem in Canada, but the problem itself is huge. The International Center for Research on Women estimates that one-third of girls are married before the age of 18. The countries with the highest rates of child marriage are in Africa and South Asia. In Niger, 75 percent of girls are married before the age of 18. The ICRW lists the top 20 countries in the world with the highest rates of child brides.

The Problems Associated With Child Brides

  • Young girls who marry before the age of 18 do not get educated as well as girls who wait to marry.
  • These young girls may not have access to healthcare and other services they require to grow and mature.
  • Girls who marry under the age of 18 are more likely to live in poverty.
  • Child brides have a higher risk of HIV and other STDs.
  • Child brides die at a higher rate from pregnancy than women who are older when they marry.
  • Younger brides are more likely to experience domestic violence than the women who marry later in life. In India, the risk of domestic violence for girls under 18 is twice that of women who wait.

Changing Child Marriage

Although many people outside of the regions associate child marriage with Islam, it’s simply a myth that only one religion is affiliated with child brides. Many religions actively participate in the tradition. It is more common in rural areas than urban, and many times girls do not have a say in the matter. One day, they’re playing with friends and helping mom cook dinner. The next day, they’re shipped off to their husband. The bride and groom may not even meet before the wedding.

In Nepal, it’s estimated that about 41 percent of girls are married before turning 18. Some activist groups place the number even higher, at 50 percent. Families even lie about a girl’s age to get around the law. Nepal has banned child marriage for 54 years. Girls are supposed to be at least 20 before getting married. However, it is difficult to enforce the law. Nepal is trying to end the practice by 2030. The country is working with the U.N. and other agencies to implement plans to stop the practice.

Fortunately, Nepali Hindi priests are beginning to advocate against child marriage. When a girl is born, she receives a special scroll that can be used to tell her fortune. Even if a family lies about her age to the priest who is marrying her, the scroll gives her real age. Priests are using their place in the community to educate families about child marriages. Although the number of people convinced to wait is small, these priests continue to work. It may take another generation to turn the tide of child brides in Nepal, but they are doing something today.

What Can You Do?

You may not have the influence to stop child marriages in places such as Nepal, Madagascar or Zambia, but you can certainly support the efforts of those who are working to change the tradition. ICRW is just one activist organization trying to change the tide. UNICEF is another excellent organization that promotes gender equality and education around the world. At Girlsnotbrides.org, you can find even more ways to act and raise your voice in the fight against child marriages.

There isn’t an easy solution to change when it’s embedded in the culture. It’s going to take everyone working together to empower girls and enact new laws designed to support the rights of all children in these countries. Girlsnotbrides.org works with more than 600 groups around the world to help change behaviors and attitudes associated with child marriage. Learn more about what you can do.

World Day Against Child Labour
stop child labor vector poster

Child Brides, Child Trafficking and Child Slavery are at an alarming rate.

Child brides and marriages have been in the news lately. In Canada, the age of consent is 18 or 19 in most jurisdictions, but with parental or court permission, an individual as young as 16 can get married. The situation is much similar in the U.S., although a few states do have laws to allow individuals as young as 13 to get married. In those cases, court and parental consent are required. Internationally, child brides are considered a bigger problem, largely due to the fact that these young girls have no say in their fate. Girls around the world do not have the same protections that girls in North America do. The United Nations hopes to change that.

No to Child Labour; Yes to Education

One of the most basic rights for each individual is education. It’s just as important as health, food, safety and shelter. Some countries do not educate their girls or only provide education to a certain age. The International Labour Organization estimates that about 168 million children around the world work instead of going to school or playing. About 120 million of these children are aged 5–14. Many of these children work full-time in deplorable and hazardous conditions. Some have been forced into the workforce because of human trafficking or slavery.

In 1919, the ILO was born, mostly out of the need to end child labour around the world. The ILO has actually been making progress. The goal was to end child labour by 2016, but there’s still work to be done. The ILO actually recognizes the importance of social dialogue in the fight to end child labour in production and manufacturing.

Awareness in the Present

The 2016 World Day to End Child Labour is on June 12. The focus this year is to end child labour in supply chains. A supply chain is the sequence of activities that leads to distribution or the production of goods. Stereotypically, most people think of children sewing clothes, but child labourers work in many other industries, from fishing to mining.

The ILO recommends effective governance as one of the keystones against child labour. Individually, there’s even more that can be done. Here are some recommendations:

  1. Get educated. The Institute for Humane Education is one place to get started. The ILO has a number of resources as well.
  2. Buy fair trade products. There are a number of labels, Fair Trade Certified, Goodweave and Fairtrade Mark.
  3. Talk to retailers about where they are buying their products. Ask them to make sure they are using responsible suppliers and distributors. You have the right to ask about the origin of the product you’re buying. You may need to dig deep and go to the manufacturer to get information.
  4. If you are a stakeholder in a business, make sure your organization is supporting businesses that don’t use child labour.
  5. Talk about the social injustices with others who can make a difference in their own circles.

Making a Difference

Don’t think that your small business won’t make a difference by buying responsibly. In India, the tent dealers association stopped 80 child marriages in Rajasthan, India by simply asking to see the birth certificates of the brides and grooms before renting a tent for their wedding. By coming together and making a stand, these businesses are changing their country.

Join the campaign to stop child labour. On June 12, the UN and ILO have arranged a number of activities in countries around the world. Ask your government officials to start thinking about next year and what you can do in your community to make a difference for children everywhere. The little girl next door to you may not have to worry about going to work, but in many countries, there are little girls and boys who are.