Child Marriages
By Hina Farooqi

August 2006
Early in the starlit evening, the smoke from the sacred fire began searing her eyes. The rituals pushed the ceremony deep into the night, in a crucible of heat and haze. After the first two hours, Hansa was quietly sobbing. By midnight, with Hindu priests leading Hansa and her new husband, Sitaram, in the climactic ritual, involving seven purifying circuits of the wood-burning fire, Hansa's wailing was drowning the rhythmic mantras of the priests.
"I want to go to bed," she cried. "Please, Mama, Papa. Let me sleep!"
Confusion can only have worsened the suffering, since Hansa, the youngest of six sisters being married in a joint ceremony to boys from other villages, was only 4. Her husband was 12.
Before I start reasoning with you people, answer a question for me, no matter how old you are, did you ever and do you still, think that your parents are hard on you? Like not letting you marry a man you love? Or not letting you go to your friends for a couple of days? I’m pretty sure most of your answers were ‘yeah’ or ‘yes’ or whatever you say. One more question, did you ever think that whenever your parents did that to you, you were unlucky compared to your other friends? Well, I did. But after writing this article, I realized I am really lucky, I have the perfect life, I have what any other girl would want…any other girl in Afghanistan or India, maybe even deep down somewhere in Canada. Before I explain to you why,I’m going to make you all do some thinking. So put on your thinking caps! (I feel extremely stupid saying that yet I still don’t know why I’m saying it) Okay, well think hard!

Okay, well let’s say, if you were to get married, once you’ve finished your education, and your parents picked out a guy for you…but you didn’t like him. You would at least have the right to say no, right? But in places like Afghanistan or Egypt a girl has no right over who she is about to marry, in other words, she can’t say ‘no’. Wait, think about another thing.

Its pretty common where your mom or dad won’t let you go out to your friends once in a while…am I right? But girls in India or Afghanistan aren’t allowed to even leave their house unless it’s to work…in the fields. But wait, forget being allowed to go to your friends, do these young girls even have the right to have friends?

Just think about one last thing…if your not 30…well then imagine you are. But let’s say you’re 30 and not married. People think that’s weird…but in other third world countries, it’s weird to be 16 and not married.

Okay from just those 3 thinking hard questions, did it affect or change your mind even the slightest bit? I personally think it should have. I just want to make sure you all know what I’m talking about, if you didn’t already guess, well I’m talking about child marriages and how they’re completely wrong and how they are, yes they are, illegal.

In places like Bangladesh, Egypt, Pakistan and the Middle East, the crime of violating the basic human rights of child marriages is committed on a daily basis. In most places, it’s as easy to commit this crime as it is to wear the same clothes for 2 straight days without anyone noticing. According to a report issued by the United Nations, the early marriages are violating the basic human rights of the young girls by putting them into a life of isolation, service, and lack of education, health problems and abuse.

The report issued by the United Nations clearly stated that early marriages can have serious harmful consequences for children, including:

- Denial of girls’ education. Once married girls tend not to go to school;
- Health Problems. These include premature pregnancies that cause higher rates of maternal and infant mortality. Teenage girls are more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS;
- Abuse. This is common in child marriages. In addition, children who refuse to marry or who choose a marriage partner against the wishes of your parents are often punished or even killed by their families in so-called ‘honour killings’.

I just have one more thinking question for you all. If you found yourself a man or woman that you wanted to marry, would your parents kill you? Or in other words would they sacrifice you? I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t. When I thought about that question, I wondered, why would a parent kill their own child that they gave birth to, just because she or he fell in love? Is love that much of a horrible thing? Is love a crime? Or maybe it’s not love, if you were that kid and your parents were ready to sacrifice you, would you think that they didn’t love you? I think, I would think that they didn’t love me. Maybe it’s different, because of how I’ve lived and how my relationship with my parents is, but still, my parents wouldn’t kill me for the sake of their honour. I don’t think any living person would unless they’re completely unsympathetic (not sure if that’s a word but it sounds right) idiots.

But enough of my hatred for these stupid parents (no offence, just in case). I want us all to think of a way to prevent child marriages from occurring. My idea of preventing it would be education. Now of course I didn’t think of that on my own, it was from all my researching. I went to www.about.com, the reasons they stated as a solution included:

Teaching these young girls life skills, including reproduction and contraception information, how to have fun and how to play in sports, is proving to be a positive way to change the lives and futures of these adolescent girls.

I found that as a good reason, but that won’t prevent child marriages from happening, will it? If children aren’t allowed to go to school at all, then how will it change things? I personally at first thought that that was a good idea but as I researched deeper into it, it didn’t seem to fit well with the given circumstances.

When a child isn’t allowed to go to school from the start, then how will they receive their education? The point of the laws against child marriages is to stop them from happening, but even if the children do receive the education, what good will it do to them, they will still get married at young ages…won’t they?

Okay I think I’ve said enough and asked you enough questions, but before I leave you all to rest, just think about what’s going on in the third world countries and how lucky you are to be living the way you are. So next time your parents yell at you, before yelling back, say thanks and then do whatever you want. But always remember; be grateful for what you’ve been given.


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