GJI applauds our colleagues at the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates, who yesterday passed a Resolution condemning Forced Marriage in the USA! The ABA is the largest national association of attorneys in the United States, and one of the largest voluntary professional associations worldwide. Its Resolution follows a 2011 national survey conducted by the Tahirih Justice Center that uncovered as many as 3,000 cases of forced marriage across 47 states in just two years.
- Recognizes that forced marriage is practiced in the United States
- Condemns harmful marriage practices as a form of violence and a fundamental human rights violation
- Urges governments at all levels in the U.S. to amend existing laws or to enact new laws to prevent forced marriages and protect individuals facing forced marriage
- Promotes specialized training for key responders, such as judges, prosecutors, law enforcement, child protection authorities, victim-witness advocates, and attorneys, and
- Calls for collaboration with forced marriage experts at direct services and advocacy organizations to develop victim-centered remedies and resources
GJI co-founder and Forced Marriage Prevention Initiative director, Julia Alanen, says, “This ABA Resolution, coming at a pivotal time when the U.S. Government has failed to acknowledge that forced marriages aren’t limited to distant others in developing countries, represents a powerful national call to action.”
For more information on forced marriage, visit GJI’s e-Library.
The disturbing case featured in this MailOnline article illustrates that boys and men can be victims of forced marriage, too. In 8-year-old Senele’s case, his marriage was not legally binding. But, as GJI co-founder Julia Alanen observes in her article, Shattering the Silence Surrounding Forced Marriage in the U.S., “The fact that a nonconsensual marriage is legally void or voidable (nonbinding) is cold comfort for a traumatized ‘wife’ who has been beaten, confined, raped, impregnated, or otherwise terrorized, tortured, or abused by her alleged spouse.”
By framing forced marriage as strictly a women’s issue, we risk failing to protect men and boys. Alanen warns, “Although gender norms render women and girls particularly vulnerable to harmful marriage practices, it is critical that remedies and resources developed to combat forced and early marriage address all victim demographics.”
Kudos to the fierce advocates at Tahirih Justice Center‘s Forced Marriage Initiative for calling on the U.S. to address forced marriage customs in CONUS: “At this week’s Girl Summit, a gathering of governments, NGOs, and leaders from around the world, the U.S. government failed to issue any meaningful commitments to address forced marriage in the U.S.” Quick to criticize foreign governments’ failure to curb this harmful practice overseas, the USG has yet to step up and acknowledge that forced marriage happens in the homeland, too…
According to the Daily Mail, Australia is piloting an important new education campaign designed to arm learners to identify cases of forced marriage, something UK schools have been doing for years. GJI hopes to see the U.S. take steps to integrate this critical theme into it’s secondary school curricula.
Epoch reports that Canada has invested $20 Million into UNICEF’s efforts to end child marriage overseas. The Canucks are starting to look like an emerging global leader in combating forced/early marriage, both at home and abroad. Will the U.S. follow the example set by it’s neighbor to the North…? We at GJI think it will.
For many children the realities of childhood are far removed from the idyllic notion of play, learning and development. This is particularly true for girls who experience early marriage.
Around the world about 14 million girls under the age of 18 marry each year. Although the practice tends to be more prevalent in developing countries it also happens in European nations such as Turkey.
These facts about early marriage highlight some of the areas for concern:
- In the developing world one in every nine girls is married before she reaches 15
- Some countries such as Niger and Mali have rates of early marriage in excess of 70 per cent
- Many countries, such as Gabon, have a legal age of marriage of 18 for boys but 15 for girls
The consequences of early marriage for girls are only negative and include:
- Illiteracy. The majority of girls who enter into early marriage have either had no schooling or have had it interrupted. This results in high rates of illiteracy making the girls unable to work and totally reliant on their husband for everything. A mother’s educational achievement has a much greater impact on their children than the father’s so this begins a cycle of poor education that can persist for generations.
- Greater Risk Of Death In Childbirth. When a girl is subject to early marriage she is more likely to have children before her body is properly ready for it. In countries where child marriage rates are high there are high rates of maternal mortality and infant mortality. Pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death in girls aged 15-19 in the poorest countries.
- Higher Rates Of Sexual Infection. Girls who are part of an early marriage are at much higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV. They have neither the education nor the power to ensure that safe sex practices are followed. Because their husband will be much older he is at more risk of carrying STIs. Many STIs affect general health, increase mortality and damage fertility.
- Increased Levels Of Abuse. Research has shown that women who enter into early marriage are more likely to be beaten and sexually abused by their husbands. Due to a lack of education they are also much more likely to believe that their husbands have a right to abuse them.
Because early marriage is a complex issue with a multitude of contributing factors including poverty, gender discrimination and deeply entrenched traditions, tackling it isn’t an easy thing.
You can help by contributing to a charity that tackles this problem head on. Your money will help fund projects such as:
- Protection schemes
- Increasing educational opportunities for girls
- Educational initiatives to change attitudes in communities
- Petitions and lobbying of governments to make institutional changes that outlaw early marriage
It won’t be an easy task but thanks to a lot of hard work things are beginning to change for the better, though there is still much to be done.
To find out more about early marriage and what you can do to help visit Plan UK’s website
This Post Was Contributed by Guest Blogger, Holly Hudson
Washington Post: “[Iraq's proposed new] law…would…permit boys to marry as young as 15 and girls to marry as young as nine. Girls younger than nine would be permitted to marry with a parent’s approval. ‘Iraq is in conflict and undergoing a breakdown of the rule of law,’ women’s rights activist Basma al-Khateeb told Human Rights Watch. ‘The passage of the Jaafari law sets the ground for legalized inequality’.”
Find out what GJI co-founder, Julia Alanen, and panelists from Tahirih Justice Center and the Barbara Schlifer Memorial Clinic had to say last week at American University about Forced Marriages in the U.S. and Canada…
Pictured, from left to right: Natalie Nanasi (American University), Farrah Khan (Barbra Schlifer Clinic), Heather Heiman (Tahirih Justice Center), and Julia Alanen (Global Justice Initiative)
…a tragic consequence resulting from a harmful cultural practice. In forced marriage cases, the groom may be as unwilling as the bride to tie the knot…
Child bride forced to marry poisons groom, April 10, 2014, USA Today.
Don’t miss this upcoming CLE event at American University’s Washington College of Law in DC! Join GJI Co-founder Julia Alanen, Tahirih Justice Center Senior Policy Attorney Heather Heiman, Farrah Khan of the Barbara Schlifer Commemorative Clinic in Toronto, and WCL Domestic Violence Clinic Director Natalie Nanasi on April 1, 2014 for Forced Marriage in the United States and Canada: Opportunities and Challenges in Protecting Survivors. Registration is free but required.
This is an important priority for the World YWCA in its work to end Violence Against Women and to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights … Ensuring child, early and force marriage is a priority in the future global development agenda is one of the key targets of the World YWCA’s advocacy plan. –World YWCA
Marking the YWCA week without violence, 23 October, 2013, Solomon Star
DOCTORS have complained that defilement is being sweet coated as “early marriage” which is helping the vice to persist. According to Dr. Collins Tusingwire, the Acting Commissioner for Reproductive Health, the correct term of defilement which connotes criminality should be used for the practice instead of calling it marriage. And it should also be punished.
‘Early marriages’ responsible for 20% of maternal deaths, By Anne Mugisa and Violet Nabatanzi, New Vision, 16 October 2013.
According to TRF: “Today, for the first time in history, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva…adopted a resolution dedicated to the issue of child, early and forced marriage. The resolution, which was unanimously adopted with the support of more than 100 States is a new milestone in global efforts to combat this harmful practice.”
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird: “We want to be a key champion to ending [child and forced marriage practices]. We really want to put this issue on the table. It’s a topic people don’t want to discuss. It’s a difficult topic, but it’s finally come out of the shadows.”
John Baird to bring UN campaign against forced marriage home, By Debra Black, The Star (26 September 2013).
“The Catholic Archdiocese of Mombasa has urged…residents…to report families that force young girls into early marriages. Sister Juliet Odero, the diocese co-ordinator of the Young Girls Sensitisation Program Against Early Marriages, said parents are to blame for the increased cases of early marriages…”
“Karma Nirvana, a UK organization that works to prevent forced marriage and honor-based violence, [has] been helping young women avoid being sent abroad for marriage by advising them to hide a small metal object, like a spoon, in their underwear to set off airport metal detectors – and earn a last-minute reprieve from getting on their flights.”
Can a spoon end forced marriage? By Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon (August 16, 2013)
13-year-old Pascalyne Ogbuli: “We do not wish to grow up and tell our young daughters that we were forced into early marriage and that same fate awaited them because there is a law that supports it … [W]e, the Nigerian children, demand a national apology from the Nigerian Senate … And if we die telling our leaders that our education and our future count more than an early marriage, so be it.”
Nigeria: Early Marriage – Day Children Took to the Streets, By Daud Olatunji, Abeokuta, AllAfrica, 9 August 2013
“I would rather die than get married,” says 11-year-old Nada of Yemen in a viral YouTube video about her escape from forced marriage. “I thought a lot about escaping my parent’s house during the night,” Nada explains in a subsequent radio interview, “so at six a.m. I ran away by myself and I was not afraid.” According to Inland News Today, Nada is now under the protection of Yemeni Women Union, a nonprofit that empowers women and promotes their rights.
In many places around the world, child marriage is not only accepted, it is expected. In these cultures, it is routine for a young girl to be married off to a much older man against her will. Such an arrangement often results in lack of education, early childbirth, domestic violence, ill health, poverty, and a lifetime of dependence.
Why does the practice persist? A young bride is considered more likely to be virginal. Young girls are viewed as an additional worker for the family, as a means to expand the family, and to provide the social benefits of marriage. The families of the girl brides also gain social status, plus the economic benefit of having one less mouth to feed. A marriage may be arranged as a form of debt repayment or other type of business transaction.
UNICEF reports that 60 million children are forced into marriage, 50 percent of whom are in South Asia. In Rajasthan, India, 15 percent of girls are married before their 10th birthday.
Even in countries where child marriage is against the law, the practice manages to thrive. Children face harsh punishment if they dare to disobey their elders. The threat of child marriage is enough to prompt some girls to run away and take their chances on their own. Others see no escape other than suicide.
A growing number of brave girls are bucking the system and trying to change things for themselves and for others.
- In 2008, 10-year-old Nujood Ali walked into a court in Yemen to ask for a divorce from a man three times her age. She told of abuse at the hands of her husband and his family. Her experiences helped spur Yemen and other Middle Eastern countries to become more vigilant about enforcing child marriage laws. Following her lead, other child brides have also managed to have divorces granted.
- In Bangladesh, 13-year-old Rehana Begum was about to be married off, but called on the “wedding busters,” a group of children working to end the practice of child marriage. The group appealed to Rehana’s mother, helped her understand the consequences to her daughter, and was successful in putting a halt to the marriage plans. Because of the wedding busters, local governments are beginning to create “child-marriage-free zones.” Enforcement remains a problem, but the grass-roots organization is making a difference. In the Nilphamari area, some marriage registrars have begun demanding proof of age for marriage.
- In the United States, the Girl Up campaign has organized 150,000 teens in support of girls around the world in an effort to highlight the problem of child marriage.
- The first International Day of the Girl took place in October 2012, with a top priority of eliminating child marriages around the world.
Each girl who finds the strength to fight child marriage becomes a role model to others. With each new story of bravery and success, another girl is helped, but it is not a battle that should be left entirely to the girls.
Local and national governments must acknowledge child marriage as the serious, life-threatening issue that it is. We must stop allowing “culture” or “religion” to sway our common sense. Forced child marriage is a tragedy of monumental proportions.
People everywhere must stand up in defense of the children.
This blog post was contributed by guest blogger Jason Tucker of Organic Development. GJI welcomes guest blogs on topics salient to our work and mission.