Rape, dishonor, distress: Child marriage used as protection in conflict and disasters

World Vision launches report on eve of International Women's Day

NEW YORK, March 6, 2013 /CNW/ - Today World Vision is releasing research that shines a new light on the link between conflict, disasters and child marriage. The report, Untying the Knot: Exploring Early Marriage in Fragile States, highlights the catastrophic impacts of early marriage, ranging from severe sexual and reproductive health complications and an increase in child mortality, to domestic violence, social isolation and extreme poverty.

"Early marriage cuts short childhood. Girls have the right to be girls—they shouldn't have to be mothers and wives yet. It's a violation of human rights, yet many parents believe it's the best way to make sure their daughters are cared for," says Elly Vandenberg, senior director of Policy & Advocacy, World Vision Canada.

"Families consider early marriage a protective measure, especially during a crisis," says Vandenberg. "Parents and children told us how their fears of rape, homelessness, and family shame drove them to early marriage. The sad truth is girls who marry young can be exposed to greater risks of violence, malnutrition and devastating health complications."

Key Findings:

  • One in nine girls in the least developed countries will enter into marriages before their 15th birthday.
  • Of the 25 countries with the highest rates of early marriage, the majority are affected by conflict, fragility or natural disasters.
  • Parents and girls resort to early marriage as a protection against both real and perceived risks, because they believe they have no alternatives.
  • Girls trapped in early marriage tend to be poor, under-educated and living in rural areas where birth and death rates are high and conflict is common.
  • Girls living in countries facing humanitarian crises, such as West Africa, are especially vulnerable because the families, teachers, friends, leaders and networks they would normally rely on are disrupted.
  • In extreme cases, such as current conflicts in Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, support for the protection of children may be non-existent.

World Vision encourages the Government of Canada to take a two-pronged approach:

  1. Protection - The Government of Canada should play a leadership role in building a protective shield for children at the community level through education, vocational training and economic livelihoods and by working with national governments on the adoption of practices that protect children, such as birth registration, marriage age limit legislation and enforcement.

  2. Health - Canada needs to build on and sustain its success with ongoing investments in child and maternal health beyond the Muskoka Initiative's 2015 deadline, as early marriage can lead to premature labour, complications during childbirth and even the death of young mothers and newborn infants.

World Vision is a Christian relief, development and advocacy organization dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. Visit our News Centre at worldvision.ca

SOURCE: World Vision Canada

For further information:

Photos and interviews available:
For photo resources and interviews with Elly Vandenberg or a 16-year-old anti-early marriage advocate from Bangladesh, please contact Tiffany Baggetta (Mobile: 416-305-9612) or tiffany_baggetta@worldvision.ca

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