The Washington Times-Herald

Community News Network

November 23, 2012

Ending the curse of child brides, one $25 goat at a time

After an unforgivably long time, the revolutionary idea that girls should get the same education as boys seems to be gaining acceptance. What's surprising, then, is that one of the great impediments to keeping girls in school — particularly girls in the developing world — remains largely unremarked upon and unaddressed. By this we mean the stubborn persistence of child marriage.

Child brides remain alarmingly common. An estimated 10 million marriages occur worldwide each year in which at least one spouse, usually the female, is younger than 18. In 16 countries, half of girls marry by that age. West Africa has the highest incidence of child marriage, South Asia the largest numbers. In many places, brides are preposterously young. In Niger, 36 percent of girls are wed before turning 15.

These unions produce a host of social ills. Younger brides become pregnant at younger ages, often before their bodies fully mature, putting mother and child at risk. In the developing world, a baby born to a mother under 20 is 50 percent more likely to be stillborn or die in the first month than one born to a mother 20 to 29. Pregnant girls younger than 15 are five times more likely to die giving birth than women over 20 are.

A particular danger for teen mothers is obstetric fistula, a condition that can develop during untended, obstructed labor and lead to constant leakage of urine or feces; such girls are often cast out of society.

Girls who marry young also typically leave school. Their children are more likely than those of older brides to be undereducated and malnourished.

Generally, the younger the bride, the greater the age gap between her and her husband, which translates to a power imbalance that often leads to spousal abuse.

In recent decades, several countries have increased the legal marital age to 18 to comply with international conventions defining marriage as an agreement between consenting adults. Yet legal change alone has made little difference. The prevalence of child marriage is decreasing — but very slowly, and in many places not at all. Some members of Egypt's Parliament actually want to rescind the country's law that sets the marriage age at 18.

Text Only
Community News Network
  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Is this a commercial for batting gloves or a baseball game?

    Major league baseball desperately needs to speed up the action. Here's a place to start: Nix the mind-numbing ritual of hitters who first adjust the right batting glove, then the left one, after every single pitch.
     

    August 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • The Simpsons still going strong

    The groundbreaking animation first hit the air Dec. 17, 1989, but the family first appeared on television in "The Tracey Ullman Show" short "Good Night" on April 19, 1987.

    August 21, 2014

  • Does Twitter need a censor?

    Twitter decided last year to make images more prominent on its site. Now, the social network is finding itself caught between being an open forum and patrolling for inappropriate content.

    August 21, 2014

  • Police chief resigns over racial slur repost to Facebook

    A repost on his personal Facebook page of a racially-charged comment by the original poster of a comedy video has forced the police chief of an Oklahoma city to resign his office.

    August 21, 2014

  • sleepchart.jpg America’s sleep-deprived cities

    Americans might run on sleep, but those living in the country's largest cities don't appear to run on much.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Who should pay for your kids ACT?

    Thirteen states paid for 11th-grade students in all public high schools to take the ACT college admission test this year, with several more planning to join them in 2015.

    August 20, 2014

  • Pets.jpg Why do people look like their pets?

    As much as we might quibble over the virtues and vices of Canis domesticus, however, and over whether human nature is any better or worse than dog nature, even dog fanciers don't usually want to look like a dog.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ice bucket challenge trending up

    Internet trends are a dime a dozen these days. Everything from Tebowing to planking to the cinnamon challenge can cause a wave of social media activity that can last for weeks before fizzling out.

    August 19, 2014

  • Africa goes medieval in its fight against Ebola

    As the Ebola epidemic claims new victims at an ever-increasing rate, African governments in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have instituted a "cordon sanitaire," deploying troops to forcibly isolate the inhabitants in an area containing most of the cases.

    August 18, 2014

  • Democrat? Republican? There's an app for that

    If you're a Republican, you might want to think twice before buying Lipton Iced Tea, and forget about Starbucks coffee. If you're a Democrat, put down that Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, and throw away the cylinder of Quaker Oats in your pantry.

    August 18, 2014