Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sacrificing Children As Sex Possessions

"My parents are poor, they cannot afford to look after me. I helped my family when I got married; they no longer need to support me."
16-year-old Mozambican girl

"I was in the ninth grade. Now I get up at 6 a.m. I clean the house, then I clean my mother-in-law's house and I also work on the farm."
16-year-old in Inhambane province, Mozambique

"Mostly it's a situation where the mother herself was given away as a little girl, so they think it's normal."
"It becomes something generational."
Pascoa Claudino Sumbana Ferrao, government director, Inhambane City

"The problem is that girls and women are not allowed to speak. If a man stands up in church and says God showed him in a dream that he should marry a certain girl, then that is God's commandment which must be obeyed."
Zimbabwean church elder
Child bride in Niger -- The Economist

In Nigeria, 23 million girls and women were married in childhood, making that country home to the largest number of child brides in Africa. Elsewhere in Africa, Chad and Central African Republic are among the countries with the highest rates of child marriage today. The world gasped in horror as the Islamist terrorist group operating out of Nigeria, Boko Haram, kidnapped almost 300 schoolgirls in Chibok, where they attended a private school for girls. The wholesale abduction of hundreds of girls was viewed as an atrocity, and it was.

But the custom of male relatives of young girls selling those girls into marriages with mature and often much-older men prevails throughout Africa and south Asia. Those girls are sold, although the custom is to consider their selling price a 'bride price', much as cattle are sold at auction for whatever the going price might be, to add to an enterprising man's holdings. In this case, a young girl is considered the property of whoever offers the best bride price to an often rural, often penurious family.

It's hard to see how this practise is condoned and the abduction of hundreds is condemned. How different are they? In either instance, slavery results and a lifetime of misery.

The fate of one girl was outlined, a fourteen-year-old schoolgirl whose school uniform was discarded when she was handed a traditional wedding robe and informed her seventh-grade studies in South Africa were over because her male relatives had taken a $570 bride price from a man she had no idea even existed, who happened to be twice her age. After the marriage where she had been beaten and raped, she made a successful escape and reported her experience at a police station.

Officially, child-bride arranged marriages are forbidden by law in many of the countries where they occur. A law that is ignored in favour of what has become a tradition; selling young girls into lifetime servitude under the name of marriage. In the instance of the young girl who related her experience to police in South Africa, a criminal prosecution of child marriage resulted.

A recently released UNICEF report has highlighted the "lost childhoods and shattered futures", of these young girls with the demands that these governments enact more aggressive responses to put an end to the practise in Africa altogether. Where, across the continent girls are being used as possessions to be sold, the price bargained for to be used for family debts. Sometimes girls are sold into marriage in the belief that this will ensure they aren't able to engage in mischief.
What lies in store for these girls is anything but a placid future life of comfort and care as a valued companion for a man. Their lives are comprised of violent incidents, of poverty and risk of HIV, according to UNICEF. In the criminal case that took place in South Africa the husband was found guilty of rape, assault and human trafficking, sentenced to 22 years in prison for what he kept insisting was a traditional practise.

That tradition is called "ukuthwala". At one time young men would reach an agreement with a girl, and both would make an effort to convince her family to agree to their marrying. At the present time, some older men have taken to abducting girls, raping them, and forcing them into a 'marriage' that has more in common with slavery than marriage, according to the Commission for Gender Equality in South Africa.

In Ethiopia as well abductions and forced marriages of girls represented custom, but were outlawed in 2004. That this is against the law is no guarantee whatever that the practise will not continue, for it does. In Mozambique no laws exist to prevent child marriages. If a village community decides a girl should be married in a traditional ceremony her consent is not required and authorities are powerless to intervene. Nearly half of women between 20 and 24 married before the age of 18.

In Zimbabwean society early marriage is recognized as an avoidance of sin and child marriage is encouraged among the followers of churches combining evangelical Christianity and traditional African beliefs. Church leaders go so far as to enforce virginity testing rituals on girls as young as twelve.
Number of African child brides to soar by 2050 as population grows-U.N
  • Pregnancy is consistently among the leading causes of death for girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide.
  • Child brides often face a higher risk of contracting HIV because they often marry an older man with more sexual experience. Girls ages 15 – 19 are 2 to 6 times more likely to contract HIV than boys of the same age in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Girls who marry before 18 are more likely to experience domestic violence than their peers who marry later. A study conducted by ICRW in two states in India found that girls who were married before 18 were twice as likely to report being beaten, slapped or threatened by their husbands than girls who married later.
  • Child brides often show signs symptomatic of sexual abuse and post-traumatic stress such as feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and severe depression. 
  • While countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage are concentrated in Western and Sub-Saharan Africa, due to population size, the largest number of child brides reside in South Asia.   
  • Girls living in poor households are almost twice as likely to marry before 18 than girls in higher income households.
  • More than half of the girls in Bangladesh, Mali, Mozambique and Niger are married before age 18. In these same countries, more than 75 percent of people live on less than $2 a day.   International Centre for Research on Women
Child Marriage Around the World
Percentage of girls marrying before the age of 18                      1 Niger 76.6
2 Chad 71.5
3 Bangladesh 68.7
4 Mali 65.4
5 Guinea 64.5
6 Central African Republic 57.0
7 Nepal 56.1
8 Mozambique 55.9
9 Uganda 54.1
10 Burkina Faso 51.9
11 India 50.0
12 Ethiopia 49.1
13 Liberia 48.4
13 Yemen 48.4
15 Cameroon 47.2
16 Eritrea 47.0
17 Malawi 46.9
18 Nicaragua 43.3
18 Nigeria 43.3
20 Zambia 42.1 Source: ICRW 2007

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