FORCED AND EARLY MARRIAGES -BREAKING THE SILENCE AND TAKING ACTION
It will be necessary to define the scope of the terms we are dealing with in this write up for better understanding.
Child Marriage – In our legal context, a child is any person(boy or girl) aged below 18. The nature of the child is characterized by its fragility, its vulnerability and its immaturity ( physiological, anatomical, psychological, emotional and cognitive) and as such needs protection. Therefore, child marriage is considered as marriage before the age of 18, according to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Marriage – It is traditionally conceived to be a legally recognized relationship between adults, male and female, that carries certain rights and obligations. Child Abuse – Generally refers to maltreatment or injury to a child by an adult or adults in and/or out of the family, in public or in private. Such abuse often causes severe emotional and psychological damage to the victims, damages which most often are kept in secret/silence by abusers and may not manifest itself for many years. Early or child marriage is therefore a form of child abuse. Violence Against Women – is defined in article 1 of the UN Convention on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (CEDAW) proclaimed by UN General Assembly in its Resolution 48/04 of 20th December 1993 as: “Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” Its article 3 differentiates 3 contexts of violence:
Family – including sexual abuse of female children and other traditional practices harmful to women and the girl child; Community – including early and childhood marriage; and State – including violence against women’s reproductive rights.
Such physical, sexual, psychological and emotional violence can occur at each of the contexts mentioned above. Therefore, Early or Child marriage is tantamount to violence against women, especially the girl child.