News / Africa

UN Urges End to Child Marriages

Newly wed Mamta Bai, 12, and her husband Bablu, 14, stands inside a temple in Rajgarh, about 155 kilometers (96 miles) from Bhopal, India, May 6, 2011.
Newly wed Mamta Bai, 12, and her husband Bablu, 14, stands inside a temple in Rajgarh, about 155 kilometers (96 miles) from Bhopal, India, May 6, 2011.
Margaret Besheer
The United Nations is warning the rate of girls under the age of 18 who are married off by their parents will rise dramatically if current trends are not reversed.  Little progress in ending child marriage has been made during the past decade.

Salamatou Aghali Issoufa was a 16-year old student in the African country of Niger when her parents told her they were marrying her off to a 50-year old man who already had a wife and children.  Issoufa says she did not want that, she wanted to stay in school and finish her diploma.

“So I went to see my eldest brother who was more educated than I was," she said.  "So I spoke to him, I asked him, if you could help me.  I said I do not agree, can I study?  I would like to continue [studying].  Then this elder brother went to see my parents.  He won them over as en elder.  He spoke to them, to the point that they were convinced."

Issoufa was not forced to marry and was able to continue her studies - an uncommon case in her country, which has the highest prevalence of child marriages in Africa.

Her story is also rare on a global scale, according to the new U.N. report "Marrying Too Young:  End Child Marriage."  The study found that in 2010, one-in-three young women aged 20 to 24 had been married off before the age of 18 - more than 67 million girls.

Although child marriages happen virtually everywhere, U.N. Population Fund head Babatunde Osotimehin says it happens most often in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, exposing millions of girls to grave consequences.

“It [child marriage] jeopardizes their right to education, including comprehensive sexuality education, health, survival and the development to their fullest.  It excludes a girl from decisions, such as the timing of marriage and the choice of a spouse, and also timing of children and the spacing between those children,” said Osotimehin.

Osotimehin notes that girls who are poor, have little or no education, and live in rural areas are most likely to marry too young.  The study also found that girls with no education are more than three times more likely to marry before 18 than those with secondary or higher educations.

The U.N. Population Fund head says these girls are exposed to life threatening health consequences, such as complications from pregnancy and childbirth, lack of access to contraception, and exposure to sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, from their often older husbands.

During a news conference on Thursday to launch the report, South Africa’s activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu urged an end to child marriage.

“It is viciously cruel!  These children who have to sleep with old men do not even know what they are going to be doing in bed.  It is vicious!  And please be committed and say this is something we want to end; it is a cruelty,” he said.

Despite efforts to end the practice, the United Nations warns that if current trends continue, the number of young girls married off before the age of 18 will more than double - to 142 million - during the coming decade.

The study's authors urge governments on national and local levels to raise the marriage age to 18 and enforce it.  They also say education is key to ending the practice.

As for Salamatou Aghali Issoufa of Niger, she was able to continue her education and become a midwife.  Not only does she help other women, but she also earns an income.  She met a man she chose to be married to and is now the mother of a young daughter with another child on the way - two children who will be part of a new generation to be taught the importance of marrying as adults.

You May Like

Forest Stands Between Nigeria, Victory Over Boko Haram

Military takes back nearly all towns, villages in northeast, except for massive expanse of forest that spreads thousands of square kilometers over several states More

IS Recruiting Stokes Fears for Parents in Georgia

Chechens are notable part of Islamic State's gains in Syria and Iraq, and analysts fear what might happen if those fighters return to Caucasus More

Yarmouk Camp Becomes Distant Memory for Palestinian Diaspora

Once thriving capital of Palestinian diaspora, after siege by Syrian government forces and Islamic State group, camp becomes 'deepest circle of hell' 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.
Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'i
X
Sharon Behn
April 21, 2015 9:18 PM
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. Sharon Behn reports on the politics of the word genocide on the 100th anniversary of the events.
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 German Program Helps Migrants Overcome Traumatic Experience at Sea

Migrants fleeing poverty and violence in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia risk life and limb to reach safety in Europe. Those who have made it to European shores are traumatized by the experience. A program in Germany helps survivors overcome the trauma by giving a new perspective to their catastrophic experience. Zlatica Hoke reports.
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.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs