This is the real zinger: the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is the most ratified human rights treaty in history. Most of the world’s countries (196) have signed this treaty.
While it does not explicitly address early marriage, nearly the entire Convention is relevant to its harmful consequences, especially the right to protection from violence (Article 19), the right to health (Article 24), the right to education (Article 28), and the right to protection from sexual exploitation and abuse (Article 34).
And though many countries have legislation to protect children, legal systems and child protection services in developing contexts are ill-equipped to prevent unions taking place where infrastructures are weakened by conflict and cultural norms take the place of law enforcement.
Don’t families realise how terrible this is for young girls?
Faced with extreme poverty or financial crisis, families often feel that child marriage seems like the “best option” for their daughters.
However, research shows that child marriage perpetuates cycles of poverty and violence. Child marriage reinforces harmful gender norms and create an unequal power dynamic between young brides and their older husbands.
When girls are kept in homes and away from their families and community, they become socially isolated and more vulnerable to abuse, sexually transmitted infections, and early pregnancy.
Early marriage seriously harms the development and wellbeing of girls, cutting their access to education, which stops them from getting better jobs and harms a country’s economy.
So child marriage is even bigger than the girls involved? Tell me more.