Troubling but Not Rare: Eight year-old Denied Divorce

April 30, 2009, NEWS UPDATE: Saudi Girl Divorces 50-year-old Husband

Blog originally published on April 16, 2009
Earlier this week, a judge in Saudi Arabia refused for the second time to annul the marriage between an eight year-old girl and a 47 year-old man. The girl’s father promised her hand in marriage to a friend as payment for financial debts. The girl’s mother brought the case in an attempt to free her daughter from the forced marriage.

While this disturbing case has made headlines, it is not uncommon. Every day, thousands of young girls and women are married before they are ready and without their consent. In Niger, Bangladesh, and Guinea, one in five girls is married before her 15th birthday. Other countries such an India, Mali, and Ethiopia also have strikingly high rates of early and forced marriage. Girls who are married at a very young age experience related educational, social, and personal disadvantages compared with those who marry later including emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.

Advocates and governments should pursue multiple approaches to eliminate early and forced marriage such as:

•    Work to dispel the myth of marriage as a safety zone for girls and women.
•    Create incentives for the elimination of early and forced marriage among community leaders and organizations.
•    Advocate for governments to set a minimum legal age at marriage of 18 years without the requirement of parental consent for young people who wish to marry, and at least 15 years with the free consent of both parties and the consent of parents, guardians, or judicial authorities.
•    Strengthen marriage registration systems to require compulsory civil registration, age confirmation, and “free and full consent” of the bride and groom.
•    Expand investments in girls’ education, the quality of teaching, the safety of school environments, and promote universal attendance of all girls, at least up to age 15.
•    Provide vocational training and financial literacy programs, both in schools and also for out-of-school girls ages 10-14, to facilitate their income-earning capacity and employment now or later.
•    Establish safe girls-only spaces in schools and clubs for girls who are out of school and may already be married.
•    Invest in the sexual and reproductive health of young adolescent girls, both married and unmarried by providing comprehensive sexuality education and comprehensive reproductive health care that is accessible to girls of all ages.

For more information on early and forced marriage go to: ” Child Marriage: Girls 14 and Younger At Risk

Susanna Smith is the Program Officer for Communications at the International Women’s Health Coalition. Read her bio  here .



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