A 2018 report on child marriage in Africa by the Centre for Human Rights, in collaboration with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the mechanism of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa, suggest, while they quote from ‘UNICEF, 2015. A Profile of Child Marriage in Africa’, that Africa will become the region with the largest number and global share of child marriages by 2050.
Child marriage, a practice that mostly affect girls, defined as a formal or informal union before the age of 18 is still prevalent , especially in Sub-Saharan and in Asia where it is practiced in the form of abduction or kidnapping marriage.
Ending child marriage is probably still going to take longer, especially where culture in the context of marriage is still widely honoured.
The reports adds that;
“… In the Kivu region of the DRC, great importance is placed on a girl’s virginity before marriage. After the wedding day (whether a traditional or civil marriage), a groom’s family is supposed to give a gift to the bride’s mother if she is a virgin. The absence of a gift is a grave dishonour, and a sign that the mother did not raise her daughter properly. Hence, the sooner a girl is married, the higher the chances of getting a gift and the lower the chances that dishonour will befall the family. Similarly, if an unmarried teenager becomes pregnant, she may be forced or pressured into a marriage to prevent rejection by her family or the community. This occurs even in instances where girls do not want to marry, and sometimes even if pregnancy is the result of rape.”
While some countries still think about how to deal with bullying in schools, while world leaders still contemplate about reducing the effects of corruption on poverty and while some countries still have class size and inequality issues in their education systems, some countries like the DRC, Uganda, Gambia and many others still make it culturally and religiously legal to marry young girls even when they don’t desire to – a practice not universally viewed in the same eye.
In some instances, child marriage turns into forced marriage driven by expectations that the man marrying the young girl will financially provide for the family.
No matter how it happens, no matter the reasons behind, child marriage is real and it often deters young girls from reaching their dreams.
Mduduzi Mbiza is a writer, content strategist, researcher, consultant, speaker and author of the book, ‘Human Education: The Voyage of Discovery’. He has contributed his articles on education to Daily Maverick, The South African, Voice360 and EduOne.