Child and Bride – Separate those words!

Child and Bride – Separate those words!

by Nadia Ramoutar    MMM Communications Coordinator         Ireland           19.05.2023

Recently, I read a report that said at the current rate we are going child bride weddings will continue for the next 300 years. That’s just not going to work for me.

I am the granddaughter of child bride. Married off at a very early age my Grandmother in Trinidad was returned to her family shamed after being unable to bear children. She was a teenager at the time. Years later, she was married to a widower, equally shamed in the small village, and she had 14 children.

Many child bride stories do not have happy endings. The trading of girls for financial purposes is not a new tradition and sadly it looks like it won’t be an old one anytime soon. It really saddens me that in 2023 we still see children as commodities to be traded or as burdens on an already stressed family experiencing poverty.

The pressure to marry off a young girl to make the families’ position better in the world is a false notion that almost always guarantees the girl will be doomed to a life of poverty, possibly infant mortality or her own early mortality in child birth. We know that young girl’s bodies may be equipped to conceive a child but they are not designed to safely deliver one. It is in many ways a life sentence for tragedy. For boys married at this young age too the outcome is dismal. It’s just important to let children grow up before bringing more children into poverty and limited resources.

We can’t tell other cultures how to live but it is possible that a little education can go a long way. Girls being educated is by far the best use of their time preparing for motherhood later perhaps but also for many other aspects of life. It is unfortunate that the poorest girls are the least likely to get educated offering them a passport out of poverty. Intergenerational suffering is real and without education it is almost an impossible chain to break.

There are so many reasons why girls are married off at young ages that the process is “normalised” and treated as if it is just something that happens. It cannot be avoided and it cannot be reversed. This is rooted in the concept that young girls are not valuable humans except in a way to be traded like livestock. They have no value except in what they can do for other people – older men, for example, or men who already have many other wives.

These is a tragic narrative in the Child Bride economy, one that makes me sad and angry. Why is it that a girls’ geography should doom her to such a difficult experience? Should a child born to a wealthy family in a different part of the world be valued so much more.

No, I think we need to look long and hard at this issue and decide that 300 years is just too long for this tradition that needs to be eradicated for future generations. Bride and child need to be two separate words.