News / Africa

Women's, Children's Groups Warn of Negative Consequences of Child Marriage

TEXT SIZE - +

U.S. lawmakers convened a hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday to discuss the issue of child marriage and its effect on girls and society.  Non-governmental organizations estimate issue affects 60 million girls worldwide.

As she sat on a panel testifying before U.S. lawmakers in Washington, D.C., 32-year-old Kakenya Ntaiya was very far from the Masai village in Kenya where she was raised.

"Myself, I was engaged when I was five-years-old and to be married as soon as I reached puberty," said Kakenya Ntaiya. "Throughout my childhood, I was constantly reminded that my husband was waiting."

Experts on women's and children's issues told the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission that millions of girls find themselves in similar situations, with about 20,000 of them becoming child brides each day.

But Kakenya Ntaiya did not become a child bride - she was an exception.  Her mother wanted her to be educated, and they convinced the girl's father to allow her to place schooling over marriage.  

"Eventually, I was able to convince the community to send me to college, something that had never been done by any girl in my village," she said.

Ntaiya is now working on her doctorate in education in the United States, and she is directing a school for girls she founded in her hometown.  

Anju Malhotra, a vice president at the International Center for Research on Women, told lawmakers that child marriage is devastating to both the individual girl and society.   

"Where there is child marriage, we have the highest rates of maternal mortality," said Anju Malhotra. "Where there is child marriage, rates of infant mortality are high.  Where there is child marriage, there are high rates of domestic violence.  Where there is child marriage, there is high prevalence of HIV-AIDS among girls."

The International Women's Health Coalition says girls between the ages of 10 and 14 are five times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth than women who are a decade older.  It also says complications related to pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death worldwide for females ages 15 to 19.

The U.S. State Department's ambassador-at-large for global women's issues, Melanne Verveer, urged countries to implement and enforce laws that set a minimum age for marriage.

"Child marriage is inextricably linked to the cycle of poverty," said Melanne Verveer. "Girls already in school are often forced to terminate their education when they marry, and married girls are prevented from taking advantage of education and work opportunities."  

Malhotra, of the International Center for Research on Women, noted that child marriage is practiced by Hindus, Muslims and Christians alike.

And Francesca Moneti, a senior child protection specialist at the United Nations Children's Fund, echoed that it is widespread.

"We of course know that child marriage affects millions of girls in all regions of the world, and especially in South Asia and in Africa," said Francesca Moneti. "In Bangladesh and in five western central African countries, six of every 10 girls are married before the age of 18."

Moneti and other panelists said child marriage violates girls' human rights.  

Moneti said UNICEF and its development partners had seen some encouraging results in places such as Senegal.  She said communities chose to abandon child marriage when community leaders were informed about its negative consequences and communities discussed the issue.

Panelists also encouraged U.S.lawmakers to pass the "International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009".  U.S. Congresswoman Betty McCollum, a Democrat from the midwestern state of Minnesota, introduced the act last year.

And, as for Kakenya Ntaiya who is pursuing her doctorate in the U.S., she says her goal is no longer simply to teach primary school.  She says she wants to help girls around the world gain access to education, as she has.  

You May Like

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid