Is Progress Being Made in Eradicating Child Marriage?
Every now and then, a case of a forced wedding involving a British woman or child will make the national news headlines, but these are few and far between. However, the cases that we hear about are sadly just the tip of a global iceberg of early, child and forced marriage.
So what, if anything is being done about it?
The Good News: International Child Marriage Agreements
After many years of struggle, there are some very positive signs for the future, with governments getting together and hammering out agreements designed to end this abusive practice. For example, a recent two-day conference in Nepal concluded with 13 countries from the Asia-Pacific region agreeing that child marriages constituted a severe form of violence against children, and ratifying a suite of measures aiming to, “promote accountability and accelerate collective efforts both nationally and sub-regionally.”
The Challenges: Civil War and the Power of Tradition
However, achieving consensus on a national level and implementing change on a regional basis are far from the same thing. What many people in the ‘west’ fail to realise is that child marriage is usually illegal in the countries in which it happens. Yet, often it is the local power of family members combined with police corruption, the collusion of officials and religious leaders and an ineffective legal system that hamper real change on the ground. In other countries, for example Sudan, child marriage is rampant partly due to the effects of civil war and unrest, with parents often forced into selling their children in exchange for money, food or cattle.
Avoiding Cultural Stereotyping
While it is important to acknowledge the cultural element that plays a part in child marriage, it is also vital to understand that the issue is not simply one that applies to a certain country, culture or religion. For example, not many people would associate the USA with child marriages, yet Warren Jeffs, leader of a polygamous Christian sect, is currently serving life for facilitating the crime in a series of towns in Utah. It is sometimes too easy to blame the citizens of less developed nations for failing to end forced weddings but there are plenty of well-meaning individuals and groups pressing to do just that.
The Role of Education
In order to end child marriage, long-standing traditions have to be overturned and this starts with education. In the UK, schools can play their part by booking a 2020 Dreams Forced Marriages Workshop. By promoting open debate and facilitating awareness-building role plays, we promote the idea that children have rights, that women are not property and that forced marriage causes profound suffering. Children at risk of being married before the legal age will also learn what they can do to avoid or escape the situation. By combining high quality education with legislative changes, perhaps forced marriages can be finally consigned to the past.
Book a 2020 Dreams Forced Marriage Workshop Today! Or Call 0800 471 4983