Child Marriage In Ethiopia
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Child marriage in Ethiopia
Child marriage is defined as a formal marriage or informal union before the age of 18. While child marriage occurs for both boys and girls, an overwhelming majority forced into marriages are girls. The federal democratic republic of Ethiopia constitution safeguards the rights of women and Article 35(4) of the constitution clearly stipulates that, ‘the state shall enforce the right of women to eliminate the influences of harmful customs, laws and practices that oppress or cause bodily or mental harm to women are prohibited." In the same regard, according to the revised family code of Ethiopia, the marriageable age of a girl was raised from 18 years. It was 15 for girls and 18 for boys prior to the coming into force of the revised family code. Besides that, as per Article 7 and 31 of the family code, non-observance of this requirement results in the invalidation of the marriage. Plus to add to that, early marriage is regarded as an act that entails criminal punishment. The new criminal code differently treats the punishment imposed based on the age of the victim. According to Article 648 of the criminal code, whoever concludes marriage with a minor below the age of thirteen years, is punishable with rigorous imprisonment not exceeding seven years and when the age of the victim is thirteen years or above, the one who concludes marriage with a minor apart from circumstances permitted by the family code is punishable with rigorous imprisonment not exceeding three years.
Coming back to the existing reality, needless to say, women in Ethiopia are compelled to marry at a very early age and do no rights to choose their life partners. According to EDHS 2011, among women age 25-49, 63 percent married by age 18, and 77 percent married by age 20. The proportion of women married by age 15 has declined over time. From 39 percent among women currently age 45-49 to 8 percent among women currently age 15-29. Women age 25-59 living in urban areas marry about two years marry about two years later than rural women (18.1 years compared with 16.3 years). On the other hand, men tend to marry at much older ages than women. The median age at marriage for men age 25-49 is 23.2 years, almost seven years older than for women in the same age range, at 16.5 years.
Different factors may be raised as a cause for child or early marriages which includes poverty, pressure from family or friends, lack of education and lack of knowledge about the implications of early marriage. At an age where girls should go to school, they are forced to get married before they are physically and psychologically prepared to handle the responsibilities that marriage may bring. The worst thing is that it has diverse consequence that may have blurred the life of the girls and children begotten from this marriage. Some of those major consequences include: it denies girls educational opportunity and hence they could not engage in productive activities which leads to poverty and economic insecurity. Besides that, they could not take part in decision making of family matters and hence they become under the control of their husbands. Finally, it leads to gender based violence.
So in order to eradicate child marriage, which has diverse negative impacts on children and women, UNICEF supports change in social norms relating violence against children and women including child marriage. As a part of program interventions, community sensitization sessions are organized to reduce the incidence of HTPs, with special attention to early marriage. A clear strategy and accompanying tools for dissemination will be developed taking into account the cultural sensitivities that are common in all regions.
Let us be in their shoes and feel their pain! How would you feel if you were forced to marry at your 13 and shouldered the burden of life before enjoying your childhood? What would be your response, if your younger sister was forced to marry at age 12 and is affected by fistula, but no one wants to be with her? What would your reaction be if your daughter becomes victim of domestic violence and quits her schooling because she marries before attaining majority?
Since child marriage is a big threat to the human rights and well-being of children and changes the basic right of these children to education, health, protection and development, it is the obligation of everyone to stand against early marriage and to lighten hope of many children!