For many children around the world, unfortunately, their childhood is spent coping with the horrors of child marriage, a despicable act of subjugation, and often abuse, says Sayeh Yousefi.
When the word ‘childhood’ comes to mind, most of us remember a time spent playing, relishing the joys of childhood, a time with no worries or responsibilities, when we were left to explore the world around us. For many children around the world, unfortunately, their childhood is spent coping with the horrors of child marriage, a despicable act of subjugation, and often abuse, that is still terrifyingly popular in many areas of the world.
Physical abuse is a prevalent aspect of childhood marriage, in societies that have yet to condemn child marriage, and this raises the question regarding at what point religious and cultural freedom oversteps its boundaries into basic human rights.
Should we value these cultures’ views and opinions that they hold in regard to child marriage, or rather overturn them and condemn them due to their blatant disregard for human life and dignity? An ethical question that is unfortunately slowing the progress towards eliminating child marriage, as many notable political leaders and authority figures in countries where child marriage is still prevalent refuse to denounce the act and take measures towards its prevention.
Child marriage in Saudi Arabia
Was it not the original intent of the United Nations, to create an organization that would unify and generalize human rights so that humans all around the world would be worthy of receiving the same rights? Then why is it that there remains so many countries that completely disregard women’s rights, particularly countries with which the most powerful countries of the world are allies with? At the very least it should be our responsibility to harshen relations with such nations to discourage them from continuing with these horrific actions.
Take a look at Saudi Arabia, a country full of oil and resources, that faces no harsh criticisms regarding its lack of respect for women’s rights from its closest trading allies. Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti himself, Shaikh Abdul Aziz Al Shaikh said that there was “nothing wrong” with child marriage, saying that there’s no intention to even discuss this issue. Yet there remains very little movements pressuring leaders of countries like Saudi Arabia to harshen their laws regarding human rights and uphold values that every human in the world is worthy of basic human rights.
Child marriage and the conflict in Syria.
In light of the recent Syrian refugee crisis, this heart wrenching issue only seems to be getting worse. Although exact numbers and statistics are hard to come by, considering the state of most refugee camps and lack of structure and stability in such regions, a few studies have found that child marriage rates have been increasing as the conflict in Syria has worsened.
Many accredit this due to the fact that most families fleeing Syria often find themselves in situations where they have very little to no money and possessions, and have to resort to extreme actions to protect themselves and their families. As a result, many families are giving their young daughters up for marriage in a desperate attempt to save them from starvation and suffering. To think, that the situation in Syria is so horrendous that parents are giving up their children to be subjugated to a life of oppression and abuse, for survival, is terrifying.
Whether or not someone chooses to justify child marriage, the main argument appears to be that this act can only be deemed acceptable if both parties are fully consenting and willing to the marriage, and by both parties that is the child themselves, not their parents who often make the decision on their behalf. Even then, a child is most likely not mature enough to fully understand the extent of their decision, and should never be pressured to do so at such a young age. Any justification for such a heartless act can only further incriminate the willing party, but unfortunately, many fail to see this way.
Children, the encapsulation of purity and innocence, are being subject to immense gruesome and injustice by being forced to wed at young ages. Not only are these children being forced to commit to a life of subjugation and physical and emotional abuse, but at the time of their marriage they are neither physically or emotionally prepared to take on the responsibilities of being a wife.
Their innocence is being wrenched away and being conformed to a resilience and retortion against their unruly and often abusive spouses. The 21st century appears to be a time of great social reform, lest one of main focuses be to eradicate childhood marriage once and for all.