* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
For a considerable number of girls – 39,000 if today’s trends continue – marriage rhymes with hostage (Source: WHO). Entrapped by the pressure of customs and traditions, these young girls are forced into marriage. This is the case in many regions of the world such as Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, where the majority of child marriages take place, and the words ‘marriage for love’ are rendered meaningless. This Valentine’s Day, Terre des hommes (Tdh) remembers the reality being faced in 2014 by thousands of young girls.
Nearly half the young girls in Southern Asia and a third of them in Sub-Saharan Africa are married before they are 18. India (http://www.tdh.ch/en/countries/india), Niger, Chad, the Central African Republic, Bangladesh (http://www.tdh.ch/en/countries/bangladesh), Guinea (http://www.tdh.ch/en/countries/guinea), Mozambique, Mali (http://www.tdh.ch/en/countries/mali), Burkina Faso (http://www.tdh.ch/en/countries/burkina-faso), South Sudan and Malawi all have an extremely high rate of child marriage. But for all that, other countries – of which Switzerland(http://www.tdh.ch/en/countries/switzerland) is one – are not exempt from this practice (Source: humanrights.ch).
An entire legal arsenal consolidates the fundamental rights of women. The United Nations Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women includes, for example, matters arising from marriage and family relationships. (Source: CEDAW). The Eight Millennium Development Goals decreed the aspects regarding women directly or indirectly: promotion of gender equality, reduction of extreme poverty, etc. (Source: WHO). Tdh is committed to having these theoretical principles respected by way of programmes for awareness-making and activities on the ground.
For gender equality
The issue of early and forced marriage is so complex, in that it is closely linked to other issues such as the equality of men and women, that substantive work has to be done by Tdh in order to modify behaviour within the various societies. Any improvement in the status of women will be achieved by the awareness of both men and women to the questions of equality (with theatre workshops, for example) and by the systematic denunciation of gender stereotypes.
The risks of early and forced marriage
Forced marriage is often the moment when young girls leave school. They are frequently confronted with early and unwanted pregnancies that have an influence on their physical and psychological health. Mortality during a birth or sexual violence by their partners are also common risks. Tdh runs activities with and for women (economic empowerment, sex education, information on their specific rights, etc.) and is committed to the improvement of certain structural aspects (poverty, etc.) that have contributed to the widening of gender inequality.
So that children will no longer become the victims of early and forced marriage, Tdh is
working to implement the promises aimed at getting respect for human rights. You can follow our activities by subscribing to our Newsletter (http://www.tdh.ch/en/subscribers/new)!