“Not Brides but girls: End Child Marriage and Empower Women”

Not Brides but girls: End Child Marriage and Empower Women
I had a friend who is from the Central India a state called Chhattisgarh. He was on a hurry to get married at the age of 19 and 20. I asked him why? His response was that I am already late, it is our custom to find my girl early. If I pass this age period I will be an old to find the right girl. This was their custom some to the extent of seeing the girls not as girls but as brides. Think about the age of those girls who will be marrying to an 18 year old or 19 year old boy.

According to the latest research from Unicef, child marriage is most common in rural areas and the poor are most at risk of child marriage.  Child marriage affects girls in far greater number than boys. My home country India shares 33% of world child marriage cases and almost half of the child bride’s worldwide lives in South Asia and one in three are in India. Every year around 15 million girls are married as children before they reach the age of 18 and some child brides are as young as eight or nine. They are denied of their human rights to health, education and equal opportunities. They are robbed of their childhood, fun and even the basic human rights. It is estimated that by 2030 an estimated 15.4 million girls a year will be married as children. That is 28 girls every minute – married off too soon, endangering their personal and physical development and well-being.

Child marriage is a human right violation that we must end to achieve a fairer future for all. In many countries, child marriage is prohibited and illegal but existing laws are often not enforced or provides exceptions for parental consent or traditional and customary laws. Child marriage reinforces gender inequality and violates basic human rights. As we fight against poverty child marriage perpetuates poverty mostly because they leave schools without even the basic education. The complexity of this issue lies with the culture, religion, tradition, region, education etc.  The child brides tend to have low levels of education and end up having many children to care for while still young.  Child brides are less likely to receive medical care during pregnancy than women who married as adults.  Unless progress is accelerated the global number of child brides will remain at least as high at it is today.

Sati system that existed in India since 4 or 5 century CE and its influence of creating forced suicide by burning herself alive at the cremation of her husband's dead body. We have since then every evil practice of infiltrating human rights to the female flocks. Ending these social evils against women will help break the inter-generational cycle of poverty by allowing girls and women to participate more fully in the society.  Empowerment, education and awareness will help the girls to be girls and the society, family and the world will win.

Just like never before women around the world are facing rape as a weapon of war, sex trafficking, honor killing, bride burnings, lack of medical care and lack of education simply because they are women. Empowerment of women is not choice of life in today’s culture, it is the necessity to transform the world ravaged by war, discrimination, hunger and disease. Human equality is not an option but a necessity to heal our broken world.

Transformation and change is not only part of life but necessary part of God's strategy. HE (God) did this with Mary, a peasant girl to the mother of Christ. As my mentor Dr. Jerome Stevenson Sr. always says; if she (Mary) can carry Jesus the WORD, logos the incarnation, she (Women) can preach the written WORD.

Binu Peniel (C) 2015  


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