Guest Op-Ed: Ending Child Marriages

Ruby Setara-headshotEnding Child Marriages 

by Ruby Setara

In modern Western cultures, a wedding is a day to be anticipated greatly. You’re going to be with the person that you love, forever! It’s going to be hosted in a nice, clean chapel surrounded by all the people that have been with you for years. They’d love to cherish that moment with you. But, on the other side of the world, a young girl is being forced into marriage by her parents. She’s very young, definitely under 18, and she barely got to finish her childhood before being snatched away from it. Some girls as young as 5 years old are married to boys who are 4-5 years older than them. Other child marriages are arranged with men who are over 45 years old.


But why? Why would parents want to send their little boy or girl off so early like that? Child marriages usually happen in the poor, rural areas of a country, such as Bangladesh. In those parts of the nation, its residents are poor and work hard day jobs for money; rickshaw pullers, garment factory workers, etc. One way to get easy money is to marry off your child. Usually marriage comes with a dowry, and that includes money. Families use that money to pay off debts and be relieved of financial burdens. Other reasons include discrimination against the female gender (families feel that having a girl/woman in their family dirties their name, therefore marrying her off and gaining money from the dowry is a way of “getting rid of” the girl or only feel girls are valuable because they can reproduce), or making sure the girl does not lose her virginity to anyone who would ruin the name of the family. Some families even sell their girls as prostitutes, which yields an even larger sum of money going in their pockets. Causes of child marriage are mostly linked to girls.


The governments in these developing countries often do have laws against child marriage, but those laws are unenforced. For example, villages in India have child marriages in the early hours in the morning when no one else is awake. Villagers keep the secret and no one outside the village knows that the beginning of an unwanted lifestyle has begun.


This issue does not just happen in the South Asian subcontinent but also happens in a number of countries in Africa such as Niger, Chad, and Guinea. Countries such as Chad (72%), Bangladesh (66%), and Niger (74%) have the highest child marriages rates.


Presently, there are many organizations working hard to prevent child marriages from happening. International organizations such as CARE, Girls Not Brides, Breakthrough, and Humanium are all trying to end child marriages globally.


Children, teens, adults, and people of any age should be aware that unacceptable things like this are actually happening. This is not a made up story told to scare you, but rather to inform you about one of the many injustices that (not only women and girls) people in developing countries face.


What you can do to help is donate any amount of money to trusted organizations such a CARE and GFW (Global Fund for Women). And with that money, they will fund a child’s education. With an education comes knowledge and determination, so that child will earn a degree and will have a job that pays well. That child can support themselves.


Girls who can finally go to school, graduate high school, earn a degree and get well-paying jobs, are girls who don’t have to be forced into marriages in order to have husbands for economic security.


Will you help end child marriages?


Ruby Setara is a 13 year-old Bangladeshi-American Bronx resident attending Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics.

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