Last summer I wrote about the tragedy of child marriage in an article titled Unholy Unions. I told the story of Nujood Ali, the now-famous young woman whose story gained international attention when she arrived as a 10-year-old in divorce court in Iran. Her story, so compellingly told in her book I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced, continues to stir consciences around the globe and pique interest in the obscure topic of child marriage.
Although Ali and others have worked hard to address this issue, the ramifications of child marriage remain under-reported and misunderstood in countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen and Ethiopia, among others. According to the World Vision report Before She's Ready, each day an estimated 3,500 girls under the age of 15 are married, along with another 21,0000 girls under the age of 18. The report reveals that 51 million girls have already been married before legal adulthood.
22-year-old Aesha is one of those girls. Aesha arrived in the U.S. in the summer of 2010 after escaping her own arranged marriage at the age of 12. After an initial escape attempt, Aesha’s husband, a member of the Taliban in Afghanistan, cut off her nose and ears as punishment. Featured on the August 9, 2010 cover of Time magazine, Aesha's disfigured face has become a symbol of the violent oppression of women in Afghanistan and the horrifying reality of child marriage.
World Vision's report doesn't spare details on the dark and hopeless existence of a child bride. “She is removed from her family and taken to live with a man who is rarely of her own age or choosing,” the report describes. “Her husband and in-laws demand prompt and repeated childbearing, a task for which her body and mind may be unprepared. She is likely to experience early and forced sexual intercourse without protection, exposing her to potential injury and infection. In childbearing, she is more likely than a woman who marries later to experience complications, give birth to an underweight or stillborn baby or die. She must drop out of school, stunting her intellectual growth and often isolating her from peers.”
With thousands of girls facing forced early marriages worldwide, the problem of child marriage can seem overwhelming. And it is. But there are actions that each of us can take to help prevent child marriage and speak out for the victims. World Vision is among organizations worldwide taking multi-layered approaches to ending this tragic problem. Through spreading awareness about the risks of early marriage and educating communities throughout the developing world, World Vision is empowering girls to finish school and have the opportunity to make their own decision about marriage – when they are ready.
I hope you’ll take time to get educated on this issue through reports like World Vision’s Before She's Ready. Then consider what steps you might take to help end the tragedy of child marriage.
Kristin Wright is a columnist and contributing writer at ReligionToday.com, where she focuses on global human rights and religious freedom issues. Kristin has covered topics such as bride trafficking in North Korea, honor killings in Pakistan, the persecution of members of minority faiths in Iran, and the plight of Syrian refugees. She has visited with religious minorities in Pakistan, worked with children at risk in Mumbai's “Red Light” district, and interviewed individuals on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Kristin can be contacted via her website at kristinwright.net or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Publication date: May 30, 2012