Despite recent efforts to protect women’s rights, forced and teenage marriages remain a global problem. Earlier we wrote about a London-based teacher who married a 13-year-old girl, as well as an arranged wedding between children. It would seem that all parents should understand the absurdity and consequences of this, but statistics indicate otherwise. According to UNICEF, 30% of underage girls who suffer this type of abuse come from South Asia, followed by Latin America (25%), the Middle East and North Africa (17% each), and Eastern Europe (11%).
The name of Fraidy Reiss is well-known to people who are concerned about this problem. Her parents forced her to marry a man she hardly knew at the age of 19.
Into the first week of marriage, the husband started to be aggressive toward the girl, and she didn’t even realize that she became a victim of domestic violence. She still managed to go to college, get a job, and eventually – a divorce. Reiss planned her escape for more than a year, and made the move only at 32, once she received her diploma. She had been married to the abuser for 12 years.
Fraidy is now a journalist and runs a non-profit organization, Unchained at Last, which helps women end forced unions. She also fights for the rights of teenagers who are forced into marriage.
There may be various reasons for parents to force their underage children to tie the knot, including:
- cultural and religious values;
- desire to obtain a new social status;
- to control unwanted behavior;
- to prevent “unsuitable” relationships or teenage pregnancy.
Each of us has probably heard of parents who insisted on their daughter getting married for the last-mentioned reason, but, unfortunately, it is not the most common one.
Child marriage is a violation of human rights because girls have the human right to a normal childhood and proper education. Since such unions are often to older men, young wives risk becoming victims of domestic violence, not to mention that early pregnancy and childbirth can seriously undermine the health of a teenage girl and even lead to her death (lethal outcomes are 5 times more frequent than among women over 20). You may have read our earlier article about the age gap between spouses that is considered suitable.
This is also wrong simply because neither parents nor husbands have the right to decide for a woman, and from this perspective, the age is in fact not the main issue. Technically, Fraidy Reiss was no longer considered a child when she was married off, but she was still a victim of domestic violence for 12 years with the tacit consent of her own relatives. By the way, after she freed herself from the forced marriage, she broke communication with all of them except her sister.
It seems that forced marriages, particularly of minors, should not be permissible in any country or in any social group due to the severe physiological and psycho-emotional consequences. But what do you think?