Say No to Child Brides

Child Brides in Niger

She is just eleven years old, she has yet to get her first period and already she is  a wife.  Adulthood is forced upon her.  She is not prepared for this physically, mentally or emotionally.  Her hopes and dreams of staying in school and getting an education is shattered.  Her dreams does not matter nor does her happiness.  Her parents have received a dowry and now she is married to a man older than her father.  Still a child, afraid and confused knowing nothing about sex or marriage and the duties of a wife, she will be forced to have sexual intercourse with a grown man.  She will suffer the agony of having her childhood stolen from her and suffer even more through pregnancy and childbirth and there is a possibility that she will die giving birth.
Stripped of her freedom she lives at the mercy of her husband and in-laws.  She is often treated like a domestic slave, ill treated by her in-laws and raped by her husband if she resist his advances for sex.  Her tears goes unnoticed, her eyes mirrors her pain.  For her there is little hope, she has nothing to smile about, all she can do is try and endure the life that has been forced upon her.  All of this seems like something from a movie, but it is not, it is real.  It is the daily life of child brides around the world.  In cultures of ignorance and poverty the children suffers.  One such place is Niger
Niger has one of the highest rate of child marriages in the world; 75 percent of girls are married before the age eighteen and many are subjected to a life of domestic and sexual slavery.  In Niger the  problem is not just the fact that there are child brides but that some of these brides are in fact sold into slavery. ‘Wahaya’ is the term used for girls and women who are sold as fifth wives to men.   In Niger men are allowed to have four legal wives and any number of fifth wives.
For these girls and women who are bought as fifth wives, no marriage ceremony takes place and girls do not benefit from any of the legal rights and protection that legal wives have.  They are treated as domestic and sexual slaves but are still referred to as wives.  They are used for free labor  and sex by their masters who are mainly dignitaries or wealthy men.
The legal age for the marriage of a girl in Niger is fifteen years old but as the country struggles with severe drought, failing crops and mass starvation girls as young as seven years old are being sold as child brides.  Parents have told activists that although they are unhappy about selling their daughters to men, the food situation have left them with no alternative.  Families are using child marriage as a survival strategy  to deal with food insecurity.  Marrying off a daughter means one less mouth to feed and the dowry she brings in goes to feed the others.  Fertility rate is high in Niger with the average household  having at least seven children.
The practice of child marriage comes with serious consequences.  It impacts negatively on the health of young girls.  Having children at such a young age, they are at risk for fistulas (vaginal or anal rupture) which can lead to incontinence.  Girls with fistulas are often abandoned by their husbands and scorned by society.  The majority of child brides are denied an education. Only 15 percent of adult women in Niger are literate and less than one-third of girls are enrolled in schools.
For places like Niger change will only come when families understand that educating their daughters instead of marrying them off will be more beneficial in bringing economic growth to this starving nation.  In a 2001 study UNICEF found that women with seven or more years of education marry an average four years later and have 2.2 fewer children than those with no education.
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) wants the age of marriage to be changed to eighteen years .  It says this would give the girls longer time in school and give their bodies time to develop and allow them to reach adulthood.  This move will also help to curb the birth rate which is the highest in the world.

Stop Abuse of Women

Bangladesh Child Brides

Although child marriages is illegal there is an increase in the practice in some developing countries.  Bangladesh for instance has the fourth highest rates of child marriages in the world.  Young girls are married by the time they hit puberty and usually move in with their husbands right away.

Most child brides become mothers while they are still children themselves.  Because their bodies are not yet fully developed they are at risk for prolonged or obstructed labor which threatens both the life of the child and the mother.  

Like India one of the main reasons behind child marriages in Bangladesh is poverty and girls from poor families are more likely to become child brides.  The illegal dory system is also a contributor.  Younger brides often require smaller dowries so parents marry off their girls at a young to avoid paying a high dowry which most of them cannot afford.  

These girls are denied a proper education.  They suffer from poor health, give birth to children who are weak and malnourished and raise them in poverty.  Later on some of these same mothers will force their daughters into early marriage and the vicious cycle continues.

Some parents marry off their daughters because they feel they will be safe under the protection of their husbands.  However in many instances these girls are abused by their husbands, sexually,physically, and emotionally.  They also suffer at the hands of their in-laws.

 Rani is a child bride.  She was married at the age of fourteen to the man her mother arranged for her to marry.  “I could not go against my mother’s will,” Rani said.  “So I agreed to marry him without thinking of other options.”

 Rani was constantly beaten by her in-laws and husband . “They beat me for trivial matters,” says Rani.  ” If they think the dress I washed is not clean or the food I cooked is not tasty, they beat me.”

 “He beats me not only with his hands but he uses his belt to beat me,” she says of her husband.  ‘He used to say, “No matter how much you cry or ask for help from others, I will not stop beating you.”

Rani has attempted suicide.  She said, “Once I was so tired of his beatings. I felt so desperate.  I couldn’t take it anymore, I wanted to give away my life.  I tried to commit suicide by hanging myself.”  According to Rani her in-laws were actually pleased when they learned she was going to hang herself.  “I went inside my room and was preparing to hang myself. I screamed, ‘I am going to take away my life!’  My mother-in-law and my husband were relaxing outside the room,” Rani said. “They were listening to what I was saying but they did not try to save me, as I was a burden to them.”

The neighbors informed Rani’s mother about what was taking place.“Then my brother kicked open the door,” Rani says. “At that time, I had already hanged myself. My mother lost her senses when she saw me hanging from a rope. My brother took me on his lap and got me down from the rope. Then my brother took me to the hospital.”

It has been reported that 51 young brides in Bangladesh committed suicide due to mistreatment by their parents-in-law in just one month in 2004.

Stop Abuse of Women

Child Brides in Afghanistan

I don’t know how many of you might have heard the story of Sahar  Gul, a young Afghanistan girl.  She was forced into marriage at a young age of thirteen in 2011.  Sahar Gul who was unwilling to sleep with her husband was drugged by her mother-in-law and later raped by her husband.  She was thrown into a basement and tortured for months at the hand of her in-laws after refusing to prostitute herself.
Sahar was given very little to eat and was tortured with hot pokers.  Her in-laws reportedly broke her fingers and tore out some of her fingernails.  She was beaten with sticks, bitten and hot irons were inserted in her ears and vagina.
She was rescued when her uncle alerted the local police who forced open the door to the room where she was kept for over five months.  She was found lying on a pile of hay; her dress was in rags, she was barely conscious and could hardly stand.  She was taken to hospital for treatment.
Her mother-in-law, father-in-law and sister-in-law were arrested.  In 2012 all three were sentenced to ten years in prison.  Sahar feels they should have received longer sentences.  She has filed an appeal for a longer sentence with the help of the Women for Afghan Women, a group that works with women’s rights in the country and has been caring for her since her rescue.
Her husband, a soldier in the Afghan National Army is still on the run.

Stop Abuse of Women

Child Brides

Thank God for the fact that we live in a free society.  Thank God for the fact that we have the freedom to make our own decisions when it comes to relationships.  Thank God for the fact that our children are free; free to enjoy their childhood.  They are free to enjoy their teen years and do the things that children are meant to do.  How much people are aware that in many parts of the world little girls are not allowed this freedom.  Many are forced into adulthood the moment they hit puberty.

Child marriage is a big problem in some countries mainly in Asia and Sub Saharan Africa.  It is also prevalent in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Latin America.  Girls as young as five years old are wed to men, four, five, six or even seven times their age.  These little girls are robbed of their childhood, their rights as human being to have freedom of choice and their very dignity.

Although child marriage is illegal in India, the country accounts for about 40 percent of the world child marriages cases.  Every year millions of Indian girls forced into marriage.  Rajasthan is the center-point of India’s child marriages.  More than half the girls born there become child brides before the age of fifteen .  Poverty is one of the main reason. Many of India’s rural poor live on less than a dollar a day.  Poor families sell their children into marriages either to settle debts to make some money to alleviate their poverty.  Girls are viewed as burdens and marrying off a daughter means one less mouth to feed.  These little girls suffer mentally, physically, emotionally and educationally.

April and May are popular months for marriages in Rajasthan and villages hold thousand of ceremonies.  To evade the law the marriages are often performed in secret , usually late at night and outsiders are not allowed to attend them.  The bride will remain at home until puberty then she will go and live with her husband and while little girls in other societies are enjoying their childhood years she will be busy washing, cooking, cleaning the house and making babies.  Many of these girls will die giving birth.

Girls who marry between the ages of ten and fourteen are five times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth as against women in their twenty’s.

Stop Abuse of Women

Dowry Killings

Dowry is a payment of cash or gift from the family of the bride to the bridegroom’s family upon marriage.  The 1961 Dowry Prohibition Act, makes the payment of dowry illegal in India, but the practice continues, putting great financial strain on the bride’s family. The size of the dowry is usually seen as a reflection of wealth.  Because of the dowry system the birth of a girl is considered a curse and girls are considered as burdens.  This has given rise to growing cases of female foeticide.  Thousands of girls are killed never getting the chance to make it from their mother’s womb alive.

In 2010 there were 8391 reported cases of dowry deaths in India.  Women’s right groups estimate the annual dowry killing to be around 900 in Delhi alone.   A dowry killing occurs when a new bride is murdered by her husband or in-laws.  When the dowry is not considered sufficient the bride is often abused, harassed and made miserable.  This can get to the point where the husband or his family burn the bride alive.  They often do this by pouring kerosene on her and lighting it.  These killings are often reported as accidents or suicide.  Driven by greed the choice to kill the bride rather than return her to her parents ensures that the in-laws will not have to return the dowry.  The very sad part in all of the is that the bride is dead while the groom is free to take himself another bride.

Happy Valentines Day Everyone

Love fires burn a tender flame,
Inextinguishable,
No matter the storm or rain,
A small spark,
A slow flame,
And then a blazing furnace,
When love fires burn.
Forest fires will eventually go out,
A candle will burn itself out,
The coal in the fireplace will go out,
Love fires once lit,
Will burn to eternity,
Love fires never go out.

 

Stop Abuse of Women

Stories of Abuse In India

In July of last year a man was arrested for keeping his wife genitals locked.    Sohanlal Chouhan drilled holes on both sides of his wife genitals and before he went to work each day would insert a small lock and put the keys under his socks. The lock was discovered my medical staff at a hospital where his wife was admitted after swallowing rat poison in an attempt at committing suicide.  They were unable to give Mrs. Chouhan proper medical care until her husband provided them with the key to unlock the padlock.  He was charged with cruelty and causing grievous injury.

Stop Abuse of Women

Until the rape and subsequent death of a young woman in India last December, I was somewhat unaware of the atrocities taking place against women in that country.  I was unaware of the fact that India was considered as the worst place to be a woman.  I was not aware of how badly Indian women are treated or that rape was a part of ever day life there.
Incidence of rapes and other crimes against women is of epidemic proportion in India.  It appears that not enough is being done by the Government to protect the rights of women.  This is not surprising since every major political party has fielded and continues to field candidates facing criminal charges of rape harassment and other crimes against women.
It has been reported that in the last five years India’s leading political parties have offered tickets to 27 candidates accused of rape and 260 candidates facing charges of assault, harassment and other crimes against women.
Rape is not treated as a serious crime in India and even the police whose job it is to protect the innocent is a part of the problem.  The women have no one they can trust.
People should lead by example and in a situation where those who lead and those who are to protect becomes a part of the problem what message is that sending to the general population.
To bring about change in India it is going to take a whole cultural change, starting with equality among the sexes. Girls are groomed to be good wives, not independent women with their own careers.  Their most important role is to produce children.  They are often treated as objects who should remain pure and be controlled.
Many girls are forced into marriages and some are even murdered by their own parents.  Mothers often make excuses for their sons when they commit heinous crimes against girls.  The change has to begin with women raising their sons to have respect for women instead of making excuses for them

Stay Positive

We all have those days when nothing seem to go right no matter how hard we try.  Sometimes when problems come they all seem to come at once.  We sometimes get so pre-occupied stressing over our own problems that we  fail to realize there are people far worse off than ourselves.  At times when we take the time to reflect our problems might be minor compared to others.   Our problem could be the loss of a job, the breakup of a relationship, children giving problem or an inconsiderate neighbor.  Although it might not be easy, these are problems that can be solved.  Just think about the person who has just lost his or her mother, father, an only child, or a close family member?  What can you say to that person to make the pain go away.  Is there anything that anyone can do to fill the void that is left?   Death is so final, there is no tomorrow, no second chance to do things differently.  Therefore we must give thanks for life even if it may be filled with problems, for at the end of the day it is the most important thing that we have.  Everything else takes second place.