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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid