Picture the life of a child bride, a life where her much older husband and in-laws demand immediate and repeated childbearing. She is forced into a life of that exposes her to irreparable mental and physical damage. Tuesday, 16 June 2015 is not only Youth Day but also the Day of the African Child 2015, highlighting this year’s sobering theme: 25 Years after the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Accelerating our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage in Africa.
Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have the highest rates of girl child marriages in the world. A third of women between the ages of 20 to 24 were married as children. Translated, if present trends continue, 142 million girls will be married before their 18th birthday over the next decade. That’s an average of 14.2 million girls each year 1.
In South Africa, apart from many cases of girl child marriage, ukuthwala — a practice where girls are abducted into marriage — still occur. Ukuthwala contravenes both the United Nations (UN) conventions and the African Charter on the Rights of the Child.
Most recently, World Vision South Africa’s Umzimkhulu, ADP (Area Development Programme) in KwaZulu/Natal tabled a report Children Affected by Early Marriage which cited that ukuthwala is still common practice in the villages of Umzimkhulu.
In order to understand the practice of early marriage (ukugana) the Umzimkhulu ADP surveyed married girls from two secondary schools in the area and concluded the following:
- On average, these girls were married between the ages of 14-18 years;
- Most of their spouses are between eight and 20 years older;
- The majority got married because they had visited their boyfriends and lost their virginity;
- 25% of these girls were victims of ukuthwala.
Comments Paula Barnard, national director of World Vision South Africa: “The statistics remain alarming; when a very recent and localised survey highlights the prevalence of both child marriage and ukuthwala it means we’re still faced with a very real issue; our children’s voices are not heard.
“Ukhutwala and child marriages are deplorable acts that affect our children on a daily basis. It has to stop and the only way is to give our children a voice is through aggressive intervention, education and support by communities, traditional leaders and government.”
According to the International Center for Research on Women, education plays a fundamental role in preventing child marriage:
Girls with higher levels of schooling are less likely to marry as children. In Mozambique, some 60 percent of girls with no education are married by 18, compared to 10 percent of girls with secondary schooling and less than one percent of girls with higher education; and
Educating adolescent girls has been a critical factor in increasing the age of marriage in a number of developing countries, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand.
“By implementing workable and deliverable action plans we can empower millions of girls and women and remove a major hindrance to both our country and the continent’s future prosperity and wellbeing. Giving a child a voice remains the most importance goal.
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Article source: http://mype.co.za/new/our-children-need-a-voice/50333/2015/06