The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.

What is an early marriage?

The article 1 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) defines child, underage or early marriage as a formal marriage or informal union between individuals before reaching 18.  
 Child marriage injures human rights and prevents individuals from leading a life that is free from violence. Child marriage has been recognized as an obstacle to sustainable development perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
Affecting almost 15 million girls every year, early and forced marriage constitutes a global problem transcending borders, cultures, religions and ethnicities.  
Marriage entered into by girls of unmarriageable  age represents a bitter reality in such countries as Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Nepal 
All over the world child marriage forms a serious problem and according to UN statistics almost 11% of young women in developing countries get married before they actually reach the age 15. 
Despite the fact that the figure referred to above is decreasing in comparison with the previous generation, it still remains very high.
If this trend continues at its current level, until 2050 1.2 billion girls will be forced to marry before reaching the age that the law recognizes as marriageable age.
Grave Consequences of Underage or Child Marriage and Health Related Consequences
• Marrying during childhood is harmful for several reasons: firstly, marriage while still a child damages a girl’s health.  Pregnancy harms young girls’ bodies.  Effects caused by pregnancy are one of the main causes of mortality among 10-19-year-old mothers.  • As the bodies of the underage mothers have not grown sufficiently, there is a high probability that their children are born still or die during the first weeks of their lives.  Those who survive are often very small and underweight and remain weak throughout their lives.  
• 56% of maternal deaths is caused by bleeding before and after birth
• Young brides are often forced to become mothers what puts them at risk of injury during childbirth.  
• 11% of maternal deaths among young mothers occur due to long and obstructive labour caused by underdeveloped pelvic bones.
• Still birth: As the pelvic bone structure is still small, unless mothers undergo C-section in a timely manner, there is high possibility that the baby dies.
• Those women who give birth before they are 18 are five times more likely to die from birth related complications than 20-24-yearold.
• Women of unmarriageable age who marry and found a family are more likely to be subjected to physical and sexual violence during their lives and this often leads to trauma during pregnancy.
Social and Economic Consequences
• Early marriage deprives girls of their childhood. The majority of children, particularly girls, quit or stop going to school as they get married what restricts their opportunities and life chances.
•  Married before the age of 18, girl is highly likely to be subjected to physical, sexual and psychological/emotional violence.  
• It prevents girls from going to school and learning.  Data show that more than 60% of child brides in developing countries have no formal education.
• It prevents them from learning vocational skills, such as embroidery, tailoring, cooking, etc.)
• Prevents them from learning their health and social rights, and
• Prevents them from participating in their own livelihoods and that of their families.
 Factors and Causes:
The reasons for early and child marriage are numerous.  The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission consider the following reasons to be among some of the main ones for early and child marriage:
• Social pressure,
• Poverty and deprivation,
• Lack of education,
• Illiteracy,
• Undesirable social customs and traditions,
• Unemployment,
• Addiction to narcotics,
• Insecurity, particularly the continued conflict in Afghanistan,
• Continuing culture of Impunity,
• Local powerholders
 Data show that many of these marriages are forced.
The United Nations report that worldwide 7.3 million girls are annually forced to enter into marriage before they reach marriageable age and  12% of such type of marriages take place in Afghanistan.
Moreover, the United Nations report that despite the fact that women and girls form half of the population of Afghanistan, only 17% of them play a part in the government departments.
Girls face particular challenges in accessing education and health services.   
Currently, 3.5 million girls have no access to education.  Almost 39% (9.2 millions) of girls attend school whilst 20% (300,000) of the students of the higher education centres are girls.    
Underage marriage still presents challenges for Afghan girls.
 More than half of Afghan girls get married before the age of 19: of this 40% between 10-13, 32% at the age of 14 and 27% at the age of 15.  
      How to Help?
This issue needs to be addressed.  This can be done by way of raising public awareness about the problem viewed in this article strengthening the work towards ensuring the rights of girls by granting efficient legal protection of their interests, providing access to sanitation and education and working with local and religious leaders.
Putting end to the war and poverty, ensuring access to education, promoting literacy and knowledge, guaranteeing health and sanitation services. Afghanistan’s rich and proud history and cultural heritage has worldwide fame.  It is a country that has made some progress with regards to women’s rights. 
For the first time, it gave women right to vote in 1919 before the United States.  In Britain women were given this right only a year earlier in 1918.
 By: Dr. Ghafoor Mina Abdul  

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The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.