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Child Brides; The Struggles of Arranged Marriages for Young Women

Updated on August 21, 2015

Ilham Mahdi al Asasi, a young girl from a rural region of Yemen, was given what is considered a fairly typical wedding for many impoverished Yemeni women - her family, out of poverty, arranged a marriage for her to a local man who could support her financially. After the ceremony, al Asasi moved into her husband's home and began to take on various domestic duties. Four days after her wedding, she was dead.

This tragedy occurred because Al Asasi was only 13 years old when she was married off to a man almost twice her age, and died as a result of this marriage; reportedly, she died due to internal damage inflicted during intercourse.

In many countries around the world, young girls are being forced into marriage by their families or society. UNICEF and other organizations have been working for many years to end this practice, which usually results in a number of health issues and various other problems for the young brides.

According to a 2010 poll conducted by Unicef, over 64 million women around the world between the ages of 20-24 were married before the age of 18. They also estimate that within the next ten years, over 100 million girls who are under the age of 18 will be married.

The Heartbreaking Truth

Young Child Bride and her husband in Syria
Young Child Bride and her husband in Syria

Globally, approximately 49 countries are currently experiencing tragic issues associated with marriages involving young children; however, the UN believes that this problem may be greater than this data predicts. In Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, more than 50% of all girls are married by the age of 18. In contrast, only approximately 10% of males from this region are married by 18. This dramatic difference shows that an alarming number of young girls are married to older men.

Many of these nations claim that the difficulty with solving his problem lies in the deeply rooted cultures within these regions. These cultures and even some religious groups believe that marriage can take place between two people of any age, as long as it's done within the manner accepted by the religious or local customs. Economic issues among families also play a major role, as well as military conflict and disease, which can leave many young girls feeling pressured to commit themselves to a man who could potentially support and protect them, and their families as well.

Source

Why These Girls Are Married Off At Such A Young Age

In almost all cases of child marriage, it is the decision of the family to have the young girl marry the man of their choosing. Families do this for a number of reasons. The first and foremost being that many of these young brides live in impoverished countries, where food and other amenities are scarce. In these regions, it is difficult for women to find work of any kind, and the girls become simply another expense on the struggling family. Once an opportunity arises for the girl to be married to a man, regardless of his age or financial situation, the family sees a chance for someone else to feed and care for their daughter, when otherwise they might not have been able to do so.


Young brides suffer many abuses and hardships from being married at such an early age. In most cultures, once a female is married, she is considered to be a woman by the community's standards. This means that she will be responsible for maintaining her husband's household, which in poorer regions usually means performing a gruelling amount of domestic work.

The Story of Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced

When Babies Are Having Babies

Most notably, however, is the young bride's domestic responsibility to bear her husband's children. Girls who become pregnant at such a young age encounter many physical and emotional problems which women who have children at an older age are less likely to endure. Complications in pregnancy are currently a leading cause of death in girls aged 15-19 in third-world nations. Also, girls who give birth before the age of 15 are five times more likely to die from complications in pregnancy and childbirth than older girls or women.

Pregnancy for such young mothers also has a very negative effect on their children as well. Worldwide, the infant mortality rate is 75% higher for babies born to mothers under the age of twenty. The children that do survive suffer many complications as well, including premature births, low birth-weight, and are more susceptible to disease. According to PBS.org, these babies are also much more likely to have HIV/AIDS.

According to Childinfo.org, girls who are married before the age of 18 are also more likely to have a greater number of children than those who wait until they are older. However, this can place severe physical and emotional stress on the young mothers which can last their entire lives..

Child Bride from northern Africa, aged 12 or 13, and pregnant.
Child Bride from northern Africa, aged 12 or 13, and pregnant. | Source
Source

Hope For The Future

Many of these young brides are forced to leave school once they are married, in order to better take care of their husbands and households. However, this lack of education leaves many women vulnerable to a number of physical and psychological issues, since they received little or even no health education.

Without an education, it is unlikely that these girls will ever be able to advance their status in life in any way; they would be unqualified for most jobs, uninformed about the state of their country and the rest of the world, and unable to provide for themselves if their husbands dies or remarries. Their children, daughters in particular, may receive a limited education since the mothers, in their own experience, may not see a great need for girls to go to school. Childinfo.org writes that keeping young girls in school may provide them with a way to escape this cycle, and to improve their lives and the lives of those around them.

With a proper education, women would be able to get legitimate work, and would be able to provide for themselves and their families, eliminating the need to marry for financial reasons. Also, once adequately informed about the other societies, the girls may realize that their culture should not necessarily dictate who or when they should marry, that they could possibly have a choice. At the very least, these girls will have the opportunity for a better life, one on their own terms, until they find someone that they choose to marry... if they choose to marry at all.

What do you think we should do about child marriage in other countries?

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    • profile image

      mackyi 2 years ago

      A very interesting and thought provoking hub!

    • KMSplumeau profile image
      Author

      KMSplumeau 2 years ago

      Thank you!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Something we give little or no thought to. Such a shame in this day and age. Something should be done for sure! Good of you to speak out about it.

    • bonmotsminot profile image

      Sue Minot 2 years ago from Wellington, New Zealand

      This issue has a lot to do with economics; specifically the female dowry system that operates in the Indian subcontinent, Afghanistan, and a lot of African countries. If this system were abolished, then child marriage would also dwindle, as there'd be no economic incentive for families to marry off their daughters young. I've watched documentaries in which the fathers freely admit they are 'selling' their daughters to help feed the rest of the family.

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 2 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Cultures and traditions are something that should be of value and something that should draw respect. Not this one and this has to stop. I also have written a similar topic on this one (arrange marriage) sometime back because it disgust me that in this day and age, it is still happening in other parts of the world and that is sad.

      God bless the children (and the women). Really thought provoking hub.

    • KMSplumeau profile image
      Author

      KMSplumeau 2 years ago

      Thank you for your feed back. It is truly sad that we live in an age where we can put a rover on Mars, but we cannot protect innocent children in our own societies. Thanks for commenting!

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Very interesting facts about child marriages. I don't know that a girl can become mother at 15. It is very alarming. It is an age of playing herself. How can she be derived of her childhood? Even my maid girl is 18 just and I wonder she is getting married. I regard her as my own daughter and she also treats me as dad. But I am happy that she is already in love with her would-be and so I am not worried. Further she is free to complete her degree course even after marriage.

      Thanks for sharing such a social issue which may open the eyes of people.

    • Kylyssa profile image

      Kylyssa Shay 2 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      I agree that it's sad that our technology has surpassed our level of empathy and humanity but the technology is being used by many to drag it up. Look how, right here on this screen, you are throwing out a spider-silk slender line of information out into the world to try to wake people up to these problems.

    • KMSplumeau profile image
      Author

      KMSplumeau 2 years ago

      Thank you for your response, I hope you enjoyed the article. I hope people do start using technology more to try to spread messages of hope and the need for reform, rather than to spread hate and shame from their keyboards. Thank you for reading!

    • Besarien profile image

      Besarien 2 years ago

      I understand why it happens. Most families do this out of desperation. Education is definitely part of the answer.

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 23 months ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      Thank you for showing all of us how terrible ignorance is.

      Similar situations happen right here in the US. Ghetto girls get pregnant at 13 by old pimp geezers because they are not taught about relationships, birth control, or planning for the future. These girls have no father figure, and their children grow up in similar circumstances. In the US, it is caused by ignorance; in the countries you discussed, it is desperate poverty as well.

      We need to share knowledge, as well as wealth, to put a stop to this horror!

    • KMSplumeau profile image
      Author

      KMSplumeau 23 months ago

      I couldn't agree more! I hope that we can soon eradicate this from society altogether in our lifetimes.

    • Readmikenow profile image

      Readmikenow 22 months ago

      I saw a documentary on this and it's simply horrifying to me. I have a daughter and I cannot imagine such a thing. If there is a way to end it, I hope it happens soon.

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