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Sunday, 1 April 2018

Put an end to Child Abuse. Early, Forced Marriages Must Stop!

Source: mySA

After she was forced into a marriage, Zahara Mohamedi suffered from abuse until she decided to douse herself with oil and set herself on fire. Forced marriages occur worldwide, even in the U.S., though less frequently.

The news this past weekend about a 16 year-old girl from Texas who was allegedly tortured by her own parents after she refused to marry an adult man is nothing short of horrific and disturbing.
Nobody’s refusal to an unwanted marriage should compel their own parents to pour hot oil on their bodies, beat them with a broomstick or be choked.
Unfortunately, the practice of marrying off teens (or even younger kids) is commonplace in many parts of the world, several of which are predominantly populated by Muslims. Fortunately, it remains extremely rare in the United States.
Authorities in Bexar County described the brutal incident as the result of the girl refusing to enter into an “arranged” marriage. While this column isn’t intended to be an exercise in semantics, it’s important to note that arranged marriages and early forced marriages (EFMs) — which more precisely describes the type of union the parents in Texas were allegedly attempting for their daughter — are not interchangeable terms.
EFMs are prevalent throughout South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Countries with some of the highest rates include Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Niger, among others.
In Niger, for example, a United Nations Demographic and Health Survey found that 57 percent of girls between the ages of 10 and 14 are married and not attending school.

Other data revealed that some 50 countries allow marriages to take place before the age of 16. Some 14 million girls under age 18 are getting married each year, the organization states.
Islamic Relief USA — a humanitarian organization that works in Texas from its office in Plano, and was involved in Hurricane Harvey relief work — recently participated in a panel discussion at the 62nd United Nations Commission on the Status of Women to call attention to the causes of early and forced marriages.
In the Texas case, economic necessity can best explain the parents’ motivation to get their daughter married. They allegedly stood to receive $20,000 from their future son-in-law. The relationship would have been transactional in many senses of the word.
This is not to say that there hasn’t been some progress. In the Middle East., U.N. data show that in 1985, 35 percent of the population under the age of 18 were married. By 2010, that had fallen to 20 percent.
Still, there is a long way to go for the world community to help stanch the practice of early and forced marriages. The practice ultimately deprives girls of their individual rights, cuts off their education, poses health risks, and can relegate them to a second-class citizen status.
The world community must continue to find ways that are culturally sensitive, yet progressive, to provide young girls greater access to education, knowledge about their rights, and to fill the voids within their communities that can help them become entrepreneurial, independent, and most important, feel valued.
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