Tag Archives: afghanistan
A recent review of the Nigerian constitution has inadvertently sparked controversy over child marriage in the West African country.
The constitution allows Nigerians to renounce their citizenship if they’ve reached “full age,” defined as 18 or older. It further states “Any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age.”
A committee tasked with reviewing the document recommended repealing the second provision, but Senator Ahmed Yerima insisted that would discriminate against Muslim women, who he said are considered adults at marriage no matter their age.
The resulting debate over Section 29(4)(b) has put the legality of child marriage squarely in the spotlight, with many claiming that leaving the clause in the country’s constitution legitimizes the practice even though Nigerian law sets the minimum age of marriage at 18 (only 23 of its 36 states have adopted that law).
Yerima’s been here before, causing widespread controversy in 2010 when he married a 13-year-old Egyptian girl.
Egypt—where a new TV series tackles the issue of child marriage—would not sign off on the union, but the Nigerian senator managed to get it approved in his own country, where criticism has dogged him ever since.
A recent blog post by Girls Not Brides does a good job of explaining the issue, which is far from resolved.
On the victory front, UNICEF reports that its Child Protection Action Network (CPAN) is having success in curbing child marriage in Afghanistan. This article highlights the case of a 10-year-old girl who was scheduled to marry a 50-year-old man before local officials intervened.
It’s unlikely that the 10-year-old Afghan girl and the 13-year-old Egyptian ever knew each other. But the common denominator in their cases appears to be money.
Yerima reportedly paid his Egyptian driver $100,000 to marry the man’s daughter. In Afghanistan, the 10-year-old’s father, who was struggling to feed his children on $30/month, accepted $9,000 from a wealthy man in exchange for his daughter’s hand.
A local religious leader and member of CPAN who intervened on the 10-year-old’s behalf cited financial problems and misunderstandings about Islamic law as the leading causes of child marriage in his community.
“One of the main reasons for child marriage is poverty, and that forces parents to agree to early marriage,” explained Sultan Mohammad Yusufzai. “The second reason is low awareness amongst families about Islamic principles and human rights.”
Likely, those same issues had more than a little to do with Yerima’s wedding three years ago.
No matter the country, no matter the constitution, no matter the religion, girls ought not be bought and sold.
There’s still plenty of legislative gridlock in Washington, D.C., but we’re thrilled to note that it didn’t extend to the Violence Against Women Act, which was recently reauthorized by both the U.S. House and Senate and includes a provision aimed at curbing child marriage in developing countries.
Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, a Democratic senator from Illinois, led the charge to include the language, which requires the secretary of state to come up with a variety of strategies for preventing child marriage and empowering girls in developing countries.
In addition, nations that receive foreign assistance from the United States will be required to provide updates on the status of child marriage in their countries as part of their regular reporting.
The Durbin provisions mirror what was in the Child Marriage Prevention Act, which he and Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine introduced in the most recent Congresses. That act passed the Senate in 2010 and 2012 but has never managed to make it through the House.
The Violence Against Women Act, originally approved in 1994, garnered bipartisan support—though it wasn’t unanimous. The legislation, which includes a host of provisions aimed at preventing sexual assault and domestic violence and protecting the victims of those crimes, passed 78 to 22 in the Senate and 286 to 139 in the House. If you’d like to know how individual lawmakers voted, you can see the House record here and the Senate record here. President Obama signed the legislation on March 7th, the day before International Women’s Day.
“Since its passage, the Violence Against Women Act has provided valuable and lifesaving assistance to tens of thousands of women across Illinois and to hundreds of thousands of women in America,” Durbin said in a statement after the Senate vote. “Over the last 19 years, the rate of domestic violence against women has dropped by more than 50 percent, but there are many more who still need help. This bipartisan bill is our opportunity to show them that when it comes to protecting those who need help, we will be there.”
Durbin’s additions to the legislation also address sexual assault in America’s immigration detention facilities, restrict the use of U.S. peacekeeping funds for countries that use child soldiers and help ensure that victims of child sex trafficking are referred for treatment rather than criminal prosecution.
Among the host of supporters for the legislation was Donna Edwards, D-Maryland, who has helped arrange a fantastic photo and essay exhibit at Rayburn House Office Building titled “Women Between Peace and War: Afghanistan.” The exhibit takes place March 14 and 15 at the building at Independence Avenue and South Capitol Street.
The event, sponsored in part by UN Women and UNFPA, features moving images by 10 award-winning photographers, including Stephanie Sinclair, Lynsey Addario and Ron Haviv. It’s organized by a nonprofit called ART WORKS Projects, which aims to raise awareness of significant human rights and environmental issues through art.
In a statement, ART WORKS Projects points out that women are key to forging peace in Afghanistan, but gender inequities threaten to undermine their efforts.
“Fortifying the autonomy of Afghan women in the form of cultural, legal and political equality is the first step in supporting their work as catalysts for change. This transformation will champion the efforts of women and girls seeking to rebuild and sustain peaceful lives for the people of Afghanistan,” the statement reads. “Investment in women is an investment in peace.”
The group’s website offers a host of resources for those interested in understanding more about the plight of women in Afghanistan—where 30 percent of girls are married before they turn 18. The site also offers a way to request the exhibit for your own community.
As we usher out 2012, the New Year lies before us like a clean slate, urging us to draw upon it something beautiful, meaningful and memorable.
How about drawing an end to child marriage, a practice that ruins young lives, destroys potential and cripples entire communities?
At Too Young To Wed, we think that’s a fine resolution to adopt for 2013, and we hope you’ll join us in reaching for that goal.
It’s likely one that will take us longer than 365 days to realize, but every effort that empowers girls, keeps them safe, encourages them to stay in school and educates families and communities on the importance of delaying marriage is a step in the right direction.
In that vein, we share with you now some of the global efforts underway to curb child marriage. These are but a few of the programs out there, and we’d love to hear more about what activities are going on in your own communities, so please feel free to share them with us.
Happy New Year to all of you!
An appeal from Gordon Brown, former prime minister of the UK and UN special envoy for global education: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gordon-brown/practice-of-child-brides_b_2294157.html?utm_hp_ref=politics
Work in Afghanistan: http://www.unfpa.org/public/cache/offonce/home/news/pid/12296
Empowering girls in Nepal: http://www.unfpa.org/public/home/news/pid/12167
Educational efforts in Ethiopia: http://www.unfpa.org/public/global/pid/306
Educational efforts in Oman, through puppetry: http://www.comminit.com/global/content/puppetry-theatre-training-course-trainers-pttt-oman
Plan UK’s efforts, working with religious and community leaders worldwide: http://www.plan-uk.org/what-we-do/campaigns/because-i-am-a-girl/get-involved/take-the-vow/child-marriage/pGPeFqvp2cU
The International Center for Research on Women’s efforts in southern Asia: http://www.icrw.org/publications/child-marriage-southern-asia