DOES ISLAM SUPPORT CHILD MARRIAGE?

Latoria
Posted July 18, 2019 from Nigeria

Child marriage according to Wikipedia is a formal marriage or an informal union entered into by an individual before reaching a certain age, specified by several global organisations such as UNICEF as minors under the age of 18. Child marriage violates the rights of children; it affects both boys and girls, but it is more common among girls. Child marriage has widespread and long term consequences for child brides and grooms. 

In Islamic nations, many countries do not allow child marriage of girls under their civil code of laws. However, the state recognised Sharia religious laws and courts in the Islamic nations have the power to override the civil code, and often do. UNICEF reports that the top five nations in the world with highest observed child marriage rates – Niger (75%), Chad (72%), Mali (71%), Bangladesh (64%), Guinea (63%) – are Islamic majority countries. Africa has the highest incidence rates of child marriage, with over 70% of girls marrying under the age of eighteen in three nations. Girls in West and Central Africa have the highest risk of marrying in childhood. Niger has one of the highest rates of early marriage in sub-Saharan Africa. Among Nigerian women between the ages of twenty and twenty-four, 76% reported marrying before the age of eighteen and 28% reported marrying before the age of fifteen.

In the Koran 30:21, marriage is described as combination of peace, comfort, tranquility and fulfillment of a natural instinct. The text explains that an important purpose of marriage is to achieve psychological, emotional, and spiritual companionship. So to accomplish this type of companionship level, parties should be equal in a way of access to marriage and compatible in marriage. Thus, child marriages cannot be considered as Islamic because to perform the marriage according to Islamic principles, both parties should reach the age of maturity and physically, emotionally, and mentally to be able to consent independently. Islam clearly insists that marrying off a girl without her consent is not acceptable. (Arzu Kaya Uranli)

Also, in a post, Does verse 65:4 Encourage Child Marriage, Those who no longer expect menstruation among your women, if you doubt, then their waiting period is three months, and also for those who have not menstruated. -- Surat al-Talaq 65:4

This verse refers to the waiting period until remarriage (‘iddah) for divorced “women,” who are by definition adults. It does not use the word for children or prepubescent girls. The verse merely delivers a practical rule for determining the waiting period for any divorced woman who, for whatever reason, does not menstruate. (Abu Amina Elias) 

However, Islam is not complete without the Sunah, primary source of law, ethics and behavior Muslims should follow besides the laws of the Koran. It's best described as the normative behavior of the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.). Therefore, so many people use the fact that the prophet married a 9-year old Aisha as an evidence to justify their actions. It's sad as the effects of child marriage is just as bad as the act, child marriage. 

The effects of child marriage can't be overemphasised. It affects the health of girls from pregnancy to childbirth which might lead to death in respect to UNICEF which says girls aged 15 to 19 are twice as likely to die in childbirth as women in their 20s, and girls under the age of 15 are five to seven times more likely to die during childbirth. This is as a result of physical immaturity where the pelvis and birth canal are not fully developed. 

Teen pregnancy below age 15 increases risk of developing obstetric fistula, since their smaller pelvises make them prone to obstructed labour. Girls who give birth before the age of 15 have an 88% risk of developing fistula. Fistula leaves its victims with urine or fecal incontinence that causes lifelong complications with infection and pain. Unless surgically repaired, obstetric fistulas can cause years of permanent disability, shame to mothers, and can result in being shunned by the community. These children are also prone to health issues like cervical cancer, STDs and the likes than young girls who marry in their 20s.

Child marriage not only threatens the mother's health, it also threatens the offspring's. Mothers under the age of 18 years have 35 to 55% increased risk of delivering pre-term or having a low birth weight baby than a mother who is 19 years old. In addition, infant mortality rates are 60% higher when the mother is under 18 years old. Infants born to child mothers tend to have weaker immune systems and face a heightened risk of malnutrition.

Girls who are forced to marry at an early age might be illiterates as they drop out from school to face raising the family. Also, they tend to be poor. Without education, girls and adult women have fewer opportunities to earn an income and financially provide for themselves and their children. This makes girls more vulnerable to persistent poverty if their spouses die, abandon, or divorce them.

Domestic violence is not an exception! Married uneducated children or dropouts who marry early tend to be more physically abused than adults who marry in their 20s. They are also sexually and emotionally abused. 

Underage marriages occur not because Islam allows them to, but they occur because women are powerless to stop them and men allow the marriages to take place. In many communities, the fathers, village chiefs, and religious leaders, who have the privilege to make these decisions, are males. Thus empowering girls through education is a must to stop child marriages. Helping girls become aware of their rights by including gender equality in school curricula is crucial yet not only do girls need to be educated, but also men of the societies have to be educated to change their mindset. (Arzu Kaya Uranli) 

Isn't it high time you stopped child marriage? It's unislamic! Thanks for following. 

Comments 4

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Jill Langhus
Jul 19
Jul 19

Hi Latoria,

Thanks for sharing your interesting, informative and thought-provoking post. I couldn't agree more about empowering and educating girls, and really everyone on how detrimental child marriages are. I think progress is being made, but it could definitely be improved.

I hope you're doing well and having a great Friday:-)

Tamarack Verrall
Jul 19
Jul 19

Dear Latoria,
One of the most difficult and complicated tasks is to look closely at where every form of discrimination, violence toward, and lack of human rights toward women and girls is being promoted and continued. Your story is a deep look at how the harmful practise of child marriages continues. So many of the current most widely known religions, and many various cultural practises continue to expect or allow treatment of women and girls that is horribly unfair, and against the UN Charter of Human Rights. As difficult as it is, we do need to look at all of the ways that prejudice is excused, encouraged or expected. The writings of all religions, and especially the interpretation of the religions, that we are aware of, all come from human beings. We are here to create together a world in which everyone has basic human rights, and that means looking at everything, with hearts and minds that trust in the possibility of true equality. Thank you for the reminder of the reasons that child marriage has to end. We have a long way to go, but at least now we have each other.
In sisterhood,
Tam

Hello, Latoria,

I hope child marriages end. It’s a violation of children’s rights. Let them be children and be free to choose when to enter marriage.

Thanks for sharing your comprehensive facts on Islam and child marriages.

Lisbeth
Jul 31
Jul 31

A wonderful thought provoking post. However our society has made child marriage a thing of culture than religion. But which ever way, it's must be frowned on by any. And I am very glad you have highlighted it here on this our platform.

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