News / Asia

Q&A with Suzanne Petroni: Ending Child Marriage

FILE - Uoung Pakistani girl Saneeda, who escaped a forced marriage under a local custom of Swara, speaks to a journalist in the Madyan valley of Swat, in the country's northwest.
FILE - Uoung Pakistani girl Saneeda, who escaped a forced marriage under a local custom of Swara, speaks to a journalist in the Madyan valley of Swat, in the country's northwest.
Frances Alonzo
Earlier this month, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced "child-marriage free zones" to be established in Pakistan. The UN special envoy on global education said the move is part of a global effort to end the practice, and will try to keep Pakistani girls in school.
 
Child marriage is widespread in Pakistan.  In March, the Pakistan Islamic Council demanded that the country abolish all legal restrictions on child marriage.  Fortunately, there is a stronger movement from girls themselves. Girls are banding together to refuse to be married off. 
 
Suzanne Petroni, a Senior Director of Gender, Population and Development at the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), told VOA's France Alonzo that there is a movement inside Pakistan working at the government level to end the practice of marrying off young girls too soon.  
 
PETRONI:  Child marriage is a problem that has been recognized by the global community, including by Pakistan, as one that needs to be eradicated. Pakistan is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Right of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and a number of other international agreements that essentially outlaw child marriage. 
 
Religion is all too often used an excuse to perpetuate this harmful practice. Child marriage is practiced worldwide and [especially in] a number of countries. There are currently some 70 million girls under the age of 18 who are married, and so my hope is that governments will recognize that this is a harmful practice and they need to continue efforts to eradicate it, and that they have made many commitments to get rid of this violation of human rights.
 
ALONZO:  What about other nations in the region, other Muslim countries in the region. How do you think [is] the ripple effect it might have in their countries? 
 
PETRONI: Bangladesh has [a] child marriage prevalence rate more than twice as high as Pakistan. And their country has laws in place and policies intended to try to eradicate the practice. So there are examples of countries where religious leaders and governments have come together, recognized the harms that child marriage perpetuates and have agreed to try to end it. And you see countries that improved their economic development and their educational status for girls and have lower rates of child marriage and these are very highly correlated.
 
Girls who stay in school are less likely to be married, are less likely to be pregnant early and are more likely to contribute to the economy of their country. Many countries around the world, no matter their religion, have recognized this and are making efforts to enhance the equality of girls in their communities, the education for girls to stop child marriage. 
 
ALONZO: What actually creates the change for governments and local entities to stop child marriage? What works?
 
PETRONI: In terms of what works at the community level, educating the girls and their parents, and community members about the harms of child marriage and about the alternatives; that is, valuing girls in those communities can help to raise from the community level on up awareness about the need to end child marriage.
 
Another practice that we have seen through the evidence we’ve looked at is empowering girls themselves with information and with skills and with support networks to really ensure that they have a support network, that they’re equipped to understand the world and their options and that those girls themselves can act for themselves, advocate for themselves.
 
And then finally, economic support and incentives for girls and their families to stay unmarried. In many cases, girls are married off by their families due to poverty. The family may not feel that they can feed another mouth and so for them giving the girl to another family and to marriage relieves that burden on them. In some cases you still see dowry and bride price actually brings cash or a cow or a chicken to the family in exchange for the daughter.
 
There is unfortunately no magic solution here that applies across communities, across the world. We believe that child marriage can end in one generation. The solution really is value the girl, give girls greater opportunities to become educated, to engage in their community and societies, improve gender equality broadly and find ways to tackle the poverty that is leading many of the families to move their girls into a marriage.

You May Like

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More