It’s easier said than done but no doubt about it, child marriage is a harmful, disgusting scourge.
Here’s a few statistics to put it into context at the first instance, courtesy of the ICRW
-One third of girls in the developing world are married before the age of 18 and 1 in 9 are married before the age of 15.
-In 2012, 70 million women 20-24 around the world had been married before the age of 18.
-If present trends continue, 150 million girls will be married before their 18th birthday over the next decade. That’s an average of 15 million girls each year.
-While countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage are concentrated in Western and Sub-Saharan Africa, due to population size, the largest number of child brides reside in South Asia.
Trying to banish the world of this horror is no doubt going against a hard-wired sense of misogynistic entitlement here, never mind religion.
It is true that child marriage is not exclusive in one particular nation, religion or culture. Despite laws banning it this regressive horror is widely practiced everywhere. In Rajasthan, India, children as young as 6 or 7 years are married before they can even start going to school. It is a feudal practice where the families decide who should become part of the family, more or less like a business merger.
Some might argue that it is not really shameful if the practice is culturally seated and approved (I disagree with that) but that t only becomes shameful once the law makers and leaders are educated to a standard that allows of understanding of moral progress and the importance of human rights.
Good education systems and the prevention of child marriage are indeed both things to be worked at. But it is not clear that prevention of child marriage cannot be achieved ahead of educating all the population. And sadly, educating all the population does not prevent child marriage, as we know from some of the minorities in the UK still sending their daughters abroad for forced marriage.
How can you criticise, combat and ultimately seek to completely halt something that is protected as a religious belief or custom?
We are told we must respect religious differences and accept them as valid and special. I think our respect will buy horror for millions of people that have no choices under theocratic rule.
We must find a solution in education and secularism. We must allow freedom of religious belief but not freedom of religious action.
We must hope that reason thrives and flourishes and that superstition and tribalism withers and dies.
Many stories of "temporary brides" are coming out of refugee camps containing Syrian women, who resort to prostitution due to desperation, and are ruthlessly exploited by wealthy Arabs unable to afford an expensive Gulf Wedding.
Considering the chaos in Iraq, the millions of degraded lives, it is no surprise that middle age practices are returning, yet those in part responsible for this are in denial, and still given platforms and money to opine.
What are some tangible ways we could fight back? The West in particular can shame the Third (and Developing) World countries into doing something about stopping child marriages. First identify countries and even states (because in some countries like India the states have more power over family laws) that have not done enough to stop child marriages.
Then apply life time travel restrictions or life time travel embargoes against the leaders, Ministers, Chief Ministers, politicians of those countries. If the State of Uttar Pradesh in India has not outlawed child marriage, then deny the Chief Minister and all lawmakers who voted for child marriage from entering your countries. Permanently.
It would be good to see our politicians take a stand on this and put penalties in place for countries that abuse their children.
Refusing entry to the country for many of the very, very rich business men from the offending countries would be a good start as would trade sanctions.
Unfortunately, I cannot see this happening while we have our smug, self centred and what's in it for me prevailing orthodoxy in charge. They would rather ignore what's happening to ensure that the foreign money keeps rolling in.
Of course education is certainly the root problem. Peasants in villages out in the sticks, whose own mothers were married at nine and had their first baby at 12 or 13, whose own fathers and grandfathers did the same - yes, I can understand to a degree the sheer lack of knowledge and awareness of the medical risks, poverty, lack of education, simply following tradition, religion, whatever.
But the urban men who enact these laws enabling what is, basically, paedophilia and mass child-rape are educated. They know it is physically and morally wrong, yet they do it anyway. Why? Why do they despise women and girls so much? Doesn't the thought of their own nine-year-old daughter suffering this fate give them pause for thought?
In the countries where this is happening, I have no doubt whatsoever than many, many little boys are additionally being sexually abused - they just don't have the marriage certificate to show for it.
Sexually-repressed cultures to a one, misogynistic cultures to a one. This is what happens: some grown men feel it is quite acceptable to target children. And they have men in high places legalising it on their behalf: Rape on.
in the case of countries like Iraq, they are following the higher authority of Shia Islamic jurisprudence based on their religious faith. The same will be true of non-Islamic societies where child marriage is authorised.
Is the only alternative is to conclude that these male politicians are all such sexual deviants that they see nothing wrong in the practice?
We live in a global village. There are some things which can never be condoned (child abuse, for example). And it's in all our interests, anyway, that totally unnecessary suffering be addressed, wherever it occurs.
The health and well-being of women and girls is fundamental to social progress and civil society the world over. Child 'marriage' should just never happen, now that it's recognized for the harm it causes.