Despite in the last decades there has been a general decline of early marriages, every year there still are around 12 million children brides around the world, who are often granted in marriage at the onset of the first menstruation or even ahead birth; in any case before their total psychophysical development. Fortunately, in countries such as Bangladesh or India, where there are programs that go against it, a significant decrease of the phenomenon was registered, while in Nepal for instance, where it is mainly linked to ethnic minorities, the improvement has not been so noticeable. In countries that have suffered severe droughts in the past, look at Niger, the incidence has decreased because the poorest families could not face the costs of weddings. Instead, where programs to fight HIV and gender-based violence have been implemented, as in Somalia or Nigeria, effective campaigns have also been carried out to reduce the tradition of early marriages, through sexual education. The phenomenon of children brides has so many different causes such as gender inequality, poverty, difficulty in accessing education and health care, but the most significant is the shortage or even the lack of a political context that protects the rights of children and women. Plus, we must add the humanitarian emergency situations. For example, there is a high incidence of early marriages among children living in conditions of conflict. In contexts of prolonged crisis, poor access to primary services or a low prospect of life, the wedding of young girls becomes a strategy of self-preservation. There is also a cultural root for which marriage in some contexts is supported and defended by a series of very strong social norms and customs, embodied by elders and religious leaders.
Individually, girls suffer serious violations of the right to both physical and mental health and permanent consequences on the level of education and life prospects. The phenomenon has also an impact on the socio-economic context, which remains backward. Schooling remains poor and low, girls in fact often remain even illiterate and their work is exploited within the husband’s family. Not to mention the huge healthcare costs. The children brides’ kids, often poorly nourished, are born premature and have to face malnutrition and health problems too. To overcome this phenomenon, legislative intervention is not enough. We need a continuous approach that involves governments and families, with educational interventions and socio-economic inclusion. Incentives for school attendance are essential. Then we need a link between school and work. In conclusion, since early marriage is often an economic measure to ensure a future for women who have less access to work and inheritance, professionalization paths contribute of course to lowering the number of marriages.
Gloria Pini 3AL