A total of 650 million: This is the number of all girls and women alive in 2017 who were married as children as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimated in its most recent annual report on Child Marriage.
Despite this horrific number, there is good news: “New data confirm that child marriage has continued to decline around the world. Globally, the proportion of young women who were married as children decreased by 15% in the last decade, from 1 in 4 to about 1 in 5”, UNFPA states. But still: “Today, an estimated 12 million girls are married in childhood each year.”
Child marriage is detrimental to the cycle of poverty. It brings the childhood of young girls to an abrupt end and condemns them to a life of disadvantage.
What is Child Marriage?
Child marriage is defined by the UNFPA as “any formal or informal union where one or both parties are under the age of 18.”
It is a violation of Article 16(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that ‘marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses’
While boys are affected by the practice, it affects girls in far greater numbers and with much graver consequences.
Why Does Child Marriage Happen?
The practice is driven by a range of varying and complex issues that can differ vastly between countries and communities (UNFPA). However, at its core, child marriage stems from deep-rooted gender inequality and the belief that girls are somehow inferior to boys.
Child Marriage in Thailand
Although statutory law in Thailand states the minimum age for marriage is 17, this often acts in contraction to customary and traditional laws (WHO).
WHO (2012) reports that 4% of girls were married by 15 and 22% by 18. Poverty is a prevalent and real issue facing many families in Thailand, and so the bride price system (Khongman) is often seen as an incentive for families to marry their daughters young. Unfortunately, the younger the bride the higher the Khongman.
What Can We Do?
Education equals empowerment. When girls are given their right to education, great things can happen.To empower girls, we must keep them in school throughout their adolescence. Education provides girls with social and economic alternatives to marriage and keeps them safe from many forms of exploitation. It broadens their opportunities exponentially and gives them the life skills essential for navigating the world and making informed decisions about their health, work, families, and communities.
The effects of delaying marriage and prioritizing education are clear:
- Children of literate mothers are 50% more likely to survive past the age of 5.
- Girls with secondary education are six times less likely to marry being under age compared to those with little or no education.
- Women who receive education invest up to 90% of their earnings back into their own families.
- Investing in girls and their education means up to 5% more annual growth per capita in comparison to countries with the lowest levels of education.
These statistics are powerful and speak for themselves. It is clear that girls can be incredible agents for change and investing in them is an investment in families, communities, and the development of countries.
Here at Center for Girls, we strongly believe in the power of girls and women. We’re constantly thinking of new and innovative ways to tackle the issue of child marriage in our local communities.
However, as such a small organization, funding drives the extent of the change we’re able to make. If you would like to make a real and sustainable difference in the lives of girls here in Chiang Khong please consider sharing and donating.
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