When Children “Choose” To Marry

I read an article about child marriage in Nepal today. The main issue of the topic is that girls are often choosing to marry. Because dating is not socially acceptable in their culture, many girls “fall in love” with a boy and they end up eloping against their parents’ wishes. Humanitarians and activists have been putting their heads together to figure out how to fix this issue – when it is the girls who are choosing to marry at such young ages, this presents a much deeper issue to overcome.

It’s interesting to note that child/teen marriages have decreased, but around 41% of marriages in developing countries are still done by girls under age 18.

I think it’s simple to figure out why teenaged girls in these areas are choosing to marry. Education encouragement is still not very good in most of these places. They are still under the influence of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations, which dictate what a woman’s role is and should be. With humanitarian efforts and improved school conditions, more parents and teachers have been encouraging girls to live their dreams and wait to be married – if they even want to marry at all. Change is slow. While people are working to help improve the quality of life for girls, women, and families in third world countries, there are still prejudices and old ways of life to fight against.

Kids are calling these elopements “love marriages” because they have indeed chosen to marry one another, rather than partake in the usual arranged marriages. While the title of the article contains the question: “What do you do when it is by choice?”, the girl being interviewed said, “If I knew what I’ve now learned, I wouldn’t have married.”

With her new house duties at her in-laws’ house, she has barely any time for school. She was still enrolled at the time of the interview, but she was unsure about how much longer she would be able to stay and complete her secondary education. My heart goes out to girls like her. Divorce is probably unlikely to be on the horizon for girls and women who realize their mistake of early or rushed marriage, but I hope that we can still reach out to them and let them know that they can still be whomever they want to be if they just stay in school and be true to themselves and their goals.

Boys and men also need to be educated about the importance of female education and empowerment. If the male population can respect this, I think that we will be able to see a more rapid change. Fathers marry their daughters off, usually to older men, as a means of survival. But if they can feel confident than an education and a career will allow a girl to provide for herself, and realistically so, I think more men will be in support of educating their daughters as well as their sons. Parents will hopefully start telling their girls to focus on their own success instead of hasty marriages that will only hinder them, and their future children, at the end of the day.

This is certainly a cause that I want to become more involved in.

You can read the whole article on The Guardian here.

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