Child marriages are happening in some of the communities in the developing countries due to customary obligation such as dowry, poor economic status, extreme hardships or religious disbelief. It is regarded as unlawful and violation of human rights. Early marriage is harmful to girl’s health physically, emotionally and socially.
Early marriage exposes girl to sex-related assault, pregnancy in undeveloped reproductive organs, early maturity and responsibility. In addition to that deficiency in proper nutritious food intake, tensions, hardship and responsibility after marriage cost her life.
The young girl is ignorant about her privileges or understands what is good for her. She cannot make any choices about her lifestyle, babies, and meals, relax, sex. Elderly person in the family or husband takes the decision and she has no choice but follow them without thinking. For successful parenting, the girl should attend puberty and adolescent maturity before wedding. The Impact of Girl Education describes that with education and empowerment, girls can lead healthy lives and lift themselves and their families from poverty.
What is Puberty?
Puberty is the period during which constant physical changes are happening in children’s bodies. The changes are triggered by hormone signals from the brain to the ovaries in girls and testes in boys. These hormones stimulate the growth, function and change in various parts of the body, including organs, breasts, skin, muscles, bones, hair and brain. Puberty is accompanied by physical, social changeover, psychological, and emotional changes.
The study shows that during pubertal transition, depression and other mental disorders, psychosomatic syndromes, substance misuse, and antisocial behaviours are observed. This leads to growing mismatch between biological and social maturation, and the emergence of more dominant youth cultures.
Girls experience puberty in a sequence of events, but their pubertal changes usually begin before boys of the same age. Each girl is different and may progress through these changes differently. The climatic condition, food intake also has effect on puberty.
The term adolescence is commonly used to describe the transition stage between childhood and adulthood. The period of adolescence can extend well beyond the teenage years. The table below, developed by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, describes the developmental characteristics of adolescents by sub stage specific to physical, cognitive, and social-emotional development.
|Stages of Adolescence||Physical Development||Cognitive Development||Social-Economical Development|
|Early Adolescence (11-13 years of age)||Puberty: Grow body hair, increase perspiration and oil production in hair and skinGirls: Breast and hip development, onset of menstruationBoys: Growth in testicles and penis, wet dreams, deepening of voice|
Tremendous physical growth: Gain height and weight
|Growing capacity for abstract thoughtMostly interested in present with limited thought to the futureIntellectual interests expand and become more important|
Deeper moral thinking
|Struggle with sense of identityFeel awkward about one’s self and one’s body; worry about being normalRealize that parents are not perfect; increased conflict with parents|
Increased influence of peer group
Desire for independence
Tendency to return to “childish” behavior, particularly when stressed
Moodiness Rule and limit testing
Greater interest in privacy
Growing sexual interest
|Middle Adolescence (14 – 18 years of age)||Puberty is completedPhysical growth slows for girls, continues for boys||Continued growth of capacity for abstract thoughtGreater capacity for setting goalsInterest in moral reasoning|
Thinking about the meaning of life
|Intense self-involvement, changing between high expectations and poor self conceptContinued adjustment to changing body, worries about being normalTendency to distance selves from parents, continued drive for independence|
Driven to make friends and greater reliance on them, popularly can be an important issue
Feeling of love and passion
Increased sexual interest
|Late Adolescence (19 – 24 years of age)||Young women, typically, are physically fully developedYoung men continue to gain height, weight, muscle mass, and body hair||Ability to think ideas through from beginning to endAbility to delay gratificationExamination of inner experiences|
Increased concern for future
Continued interest in moral reasoning
|Firmer sense of identity, including sexual identityIncreased emotional stabilityIncreased concern for others|
Increased independence and self-reliance
Peer relationships remain important
Development of more serious relationships
Social and cultural traditions regain some of their importance
Law regarding Minimum Age of Marriage for Girls from different countries
based on the research conducted in summer 2010:
|18 years or above||Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria (18 in 18 states), Rwanda, Seychelles|
|18 or above with exceptions||Angola (15 based on physical development), Congo (Republic of) (18 but younger with permission from court), Eritrea (18 but 16 if pregnant), Ghana (18 but varies under customary law), Madagascar (18 but 14 with parental consent and court order), Malawi (18 but 15 with consent), Mauritius (16 with parental consent), Mozambique (18 but 16 with consent), Senegal (18 but 16 with consent (13-16 with court order)), Somalia (18 but 16 with consent), South Africa (21 but 15 with parental consent), Swaziland (21 but 16 with consent), Tunisia (20 but 17 with consent), Uganda (18 but 16 with consent), Zambia (21 but 16 with parental consent)|
|Below 18||Burkina Faso (17 but 15 with court waiver), Cameroon (15), Chad (13), Democratic Republic of Congo (15), Equatorial Guinea (none), Gabon (15), Gambia (none), Guinea (17), Guinea-Bissau (17), Lesotho (none), Mali (15), Niger (15), Sierra Leone (none under customary law, 21 but younger with consent under Christian marriage act), Sudan (16), Tanzania (15, 14 with court order, 12 under customary/religious law), Togo (17), Tunisia (17), Zimbabwe (16)|
|18 years or above||Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Iraq, Mongolia, Oman, Singapore, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Vietnam|
|18 or above with exceptions||India (18 except under Mohammedan Law), Iraq (18 but 16 with consent), Japan (20 but 16 with parental consent), Jordan (18 but 15 with civil court consent), Kazakhstan (18 but 16 with court permission), Kyrgyzstan (18 but can be lowered to 17), Laos (18 but 15 under special circumstances), Malaysia (18 but 16 with court order: non-Muslims), Maldives (18 with exceptions), Myanmar (20 but 14 with consent), Nepal (18 but 16 with consent), Philippines (21 years but 18 with consent for non-Muslims), Russia (18 but 16 with parental consent), Sri Lanka (18 but not for Muslims)|
|Below 18||Armenia (17), Azerbaijan (17), Bahrain (15), Brunei (14), Indonesia (16), Iran (13), Israel (17 but 14 with parental consent), N. Korea (17), S. Korea (16), Kuwait (15), Lebanon (depends on religion), Malaysia (16 but under 16 with court consent: Muslims), Pakistan (16), Papua New Guinea (16 but 14 under special circumstances), Qatar (16), Saudi Arabia (none), Syria (17 but 13 with judicial consent), Thailand (17 but 13 with parental consent), Turkmenistan (16), Uzbekistan (17 but 16 under special circumstances), Yemen (None)|
|18 years or above||Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Slovakia,|
|18 or above with exceptions||Albania (18 but lower in case of pregnancy), Austria (18 but 16 with consent), Belarus (18 but 15 under special circumstances), Bulgaria (18 but 16 with court order), Bosnia (18 but 16 with court order), Croatia (18 but 16 with court order), Cyprus (18 years but younger with parental consent), Czech republic (18 years but 17 with parental consent), Denmark (18 but lower with consent of High Commissioner), Estonia (18 but 16 with parental consent), Georgia (18 but 16 with consent), Greece (18 but younger with court order), Hungary (18 but 16 with parental consent), Iceland (18 but younger with court order), Italy (18 but 16 with parental consent), Latvia (18 but 16 with consent), Liechtenstein (18 but younger with parental consent), Malta (18 but 16 with parental consent), Montenegro (18 or lower with courts consent), Netherlands (18 except in case of pregnancy), Norway (18 but younger with permission of authorities), Poland (18 but 16 with permission from the court), Portugal (18 but 16 in special circumstances), San Marino (18 but 16 in special circumstances), Serbia (18 but 16 with permission of court), Slovenia (18 but 15 with consent), Spain (18 but 14 with court permission), Sweden (18 but below with permit), UK (18 but 16 with parental consent)|
|Below 18||Andorra (16), Armenia (17), Azerbaijan (17 but 16 under special circumstances), Luxembourg, 16 but lower with parental consent), Macedonia (16), Moldova (16), Monaco (15), Romania (16 and 15 in special circumstances), Switzerland (17), Turkey (17 but lower with consent), Ukraine (17)|
LATIN AMERICAN COUNTRIES
|18 years or above||El Salvador, Honduras|
|18 or above with exceptions||Anguilla (18 but under with consent), Antigua and Barbuda (18 but 15 with consent), Brazil (21 but 16 with consent), Bahamas (18 but lower with permission), Belize (18 but 16 with consent), Bermuda (18 but 16 with consent), Cayman Islands (18 but lower with consent), Colombia (18 years but 12 with consent), Cuba (18 but 14 with consent), Dominican Republic (18 but 15 with consent), Ecuador (18 but earlier in special circumstances), Grenada (21 but lower with consent), Guatemala (18 but 14 with consent), Jamaica (18 but 16 with consent), Nicaragua (18 but 14 with consent), Panama (18 but 14 with consent), Saint Lucia (18 but 16 with consent), Trinidad and Tobago (18 but 12 with consent), Venezuela (18 but 14 with consent)|
|Below 18||Argentina (16), Barbados (16), Bolivia (14), Chile (16), Costa Rica (15), Dominica (16), Guyana (16), Haiti (15), Mexico (Varies by State –ranges from 14-16), Paraguay (16), Peru (16), Suriname (15), Uruguay (12)|
NORTH AMERICA AND PACIFIC REGION
|18 years or above||New Zealand|
|18 or above with exceptions||Australia (18 but 16 with courts approval), Canada (varies in provinces, 18, 19, 16 with consent), Fiji (21 but 16 with consent), Samoa (19 but 16 with consent), United States|
|Below 18||Vanuatu (16), Solomon Islands (15)|
We need collaborative efforts to spread awareness about human rights, gender inequality, community involvement to understand health related issues, political support, severe punishment to the parents and relatives who are forcing child marriage and supporting gender violence.