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

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs