Marriage shouldn’t make us think of violence, but every day, 37,000 girls around the world are married, often against their will, and their wedding day may be the first day of a violent, abusive relationship.
Girls who are married as children have higher chances of experiencing physical, psychological, or sexual violence at the hands of their husbands than those who enter into marriage as willing, consenting adults. Research has shown that girls married before the age of 18 are twice as likely to be beaten, slapped, or threatened, and three times more likely to be raped by their husbands than those who marry later. Sadly, many who are married as children believe that such abuse is justified, with over one-third of those married before 18 believing that, in some cases, a husband has the right to beat his wife.
We know the impact of violence at the hands of a husband or other intimate partner goes beyond physical injuries. According to the World Health Organization, women who are abused are twice as likely to be depressed and twice as likely to develop alcohol or substance abuse problems. Women and girls who survive violence are 4.5 times more likely to attempt suicide; in fact suicide is now the leading cause of death among girls aged 15-19, the age when we also see spikes in child marriages.
Worse still, in many of the countries where child marriage is prevalent, women and girls feel unable to leave abusive relationships because of shame, stigma, and the inability to support themselves. As a result, the abuse is persistent and sometimes life-long.
The U.S. government can help end this type of violence. The 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) mandates the State Department to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to end child marriage by directing U.S. foreign assistance to programs in countries where child marriage is prevalent. We must continue to push the U.S. government to ensure this strategy is developed so U.S. funds to end child marriage are part of a larger, global push to end violence against women and girls in all its forms, wherever it occurs.
Join us in urging the U.S. government to take action to end child marriage. Take part in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign and tweet these messages:
- Child marriage is a form of #GenderBasedViolence and must END. @s_GWI @StateDept: time to make this a priority! #16Days #Lead4Girls
- Girls married to older men are more vulnerable 2 marital rape, violence. Time 4 @StateDept 2 #lead4girls, #EndChildMarriage @s_GWI #16Days
- .@JohnKerry: Ensure funds 4 #EndChildMarriage strategy. Let’s use #16Days to #Lead4Girls worldwide. @16DaysCampaign
- Let’s stop the violence & let girls be girls, not brides. #EndChildMarriage #16Days #Lead4Girls @16DaysCampaign