Kids should be able to enjoy their childhood. No child needs to get married. I was engaged at the age of 14, and even though the marriage didn’t take place until I was 18, it had all the elements of child marriage. I was not free to choose. I couldn’t say no. I was too young to know what was happening or to fight for my rights. My human rights were violated, and my freedom to choose was taken away from me. I was forced to marry a stranger, and was put into danger. This happened to me not in India, but in the UK (I have started a Change.org petition – Please sign it at www.change.org/EndChildMarriageAndEndForcedMarriage
Every day, children are not lucky enough to even wait until the age of 18. They are being forced into marriage at age 10, 12, 14 – you name it. It’s happening here in the USA, and believe me, it’s happening right in your neighborhood. There is a child out there who could be a victim of child marriage and you may not even know it. This is why it has to be brought to the attention of the general public. It’s only through awareness that we can try to make a difference, that we can even try to bring about change, so this does not continue to happen. If it can happen in India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, many African countries, in the UK, and Denmark – then believe me – it happens here too!
Sometimes, child marriage (defined as a marriage of a minor under the age of 18) or forced marriage (which can happen to anyone including children or adults) happens because girls get pregnant by their boyfriends, and they’re pushed into the marriage, either by the boyfriend or by the parents, so as not to bring shame on either of the families. However, many times, one or both the victims don’t even want the marriage, it’s the parents who thrust this punishment onto the child, in the name of culture and or tradition. It’s no one’s culture to abuse! We all have to stop this abuse, it’s our moral obligation to do so. Right now, people know they can get away with child marriage, in fact they can even go from one state to another to the one that will allow them to do the deed that should not be done – child marriage. I believe that anyone who enables this to happen (cake maker, the priest, the judge, the guests, the parents) is complicit in the abuse of that child, and the longtime suffering they will go through, so let’s just all bring about the necessary action – let’s end child marriage, and let’s also focus on ending forced marriage too as even adults who are 18 years of age and older can be forced into marriage.
Until we raise the marriage age to 18 for everyone in the USA, we will not have done our very best for all children. Did you know that if parents give their consent to the marriage of an under-age child, a judge is very likely to sign off too and then a poor child is doomed to a life no child should have to embark on. Perhaps they blindly believe that parents have their children’s best interests at heart. But, sadly not all parents do. Parents are often the enablers of this cruel tradition that is a harmful practice. They are the ones that want their child married, whether it is to carry on a tradition, or to ensure the child marries appropriately, or does not stray into a relationship that would bring shame on the family – there are a multitude of reasons children, especially girls, are married off. Sometimes, it’s for horrible reasons such as immigration, where one person benefits at the expense of another! However, these reasons are a violation of a child’s basic human rights. Some traditions are best broken or ended, and it’s our job to call out harmful practices when we see them.
Just place yourself in a child’s shoes for just a moment and you will see this is no way to begin a life. A child forced into child marriage now has to serve a spouse in more ways than I would like to describe. However, describe it I must. No child should be subjected to sexual slavery just because they are now in a marriage that they were placed into. No child should be subjected to a life of domestic servitude and control, but this is very likely to happen when they are weak and vulnerable compared to the older spouse who has power and control over them. No child should have their health and safety compromised. Kids should not be giving birth to kids! I strongly believe in education first, then marriage. So many children are robbed of their right to education and placed into marriage as they are considered to be a burden.
If we don’t stop this cruel enabling of child marriage, we are letting our children down. We must ask ourselves “how would we like to be forced into marriage?” Let’s stop the perpetual cycle of abuse and also break the cycle of poverty. If kids are not allowed to pursue an education, they are much more likely to remain in poverty and be increasingly dependent on their spouse, and never be able to escape the unhappiness. Unhappiness often leads to domestic violence. Do we wish them to suffer one abuse after another? Let them have every opportunity they deserve instead of a lifetime of hardship.
I’m asking you as a very concerned citizen, please open your heart and stop the suffering of children. No child needs to be married. There’s no urgency. Marriage can wait until an individual is 18 years old, and as long as they are not forced into it. The real truth is that I would prefer that the marriage age be raised to 21 as I believe that when I was forced into marriage at 18, I was still way too young. How can being 18 be old enough when a week or few months before that you’re a child? Since I know we have to start somewhere with safeguarding children, I’m still willing to say 18 is way better than the alternative of allowing a child to marry prior to that age, so I’m definitely willing to work with this and hope to see a day when it’s raised to 21. I definitely say no to child marriage and no to forced marriage.
Also, it should be important for you to know that the marriage age has only been raised to 18 in six states only – New Jersey, Delaware, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and New York! None of us should rest until it is raised to 18 in every state in the USA without exceptions! This means no exceptions – no signing off by parents giving their consent for their under-age child to marry!
Please join me in signing this petition. I urge you for the sake of all children to raise the marriage age for all to 18 years of age. What I’m asking for is that a bill is passed in the House in California, in fact a bill should be passed in every state in the USA, that would raise the marriage age to 18 without exceptions. Furthermore, all countries should be doing the same so that kids everywhere are protected. Forced marriage needs to be a crime here in the USA just like it is in the UK – yes, it’s now a criminal offense in the UK to force anyone into marriage – this law was passed at least five years ago. Please remember that forced marriage is human slavery, and a form of human trafficking. Let’s not stop until we end child marriage and forced marriage everywhere. It doesn’t matter where you live, you can sign and make a difference. Abuses have no barriers of distance, neither does helping another human being. Thank you.
For More Information:
If you want to know more about forced marriage or child marriage, the following organizations can be contacted. The following organizations exist in the UK: Karma Nirvana, IKWRO,and The Sharan Project. The UK is 10 steps ahead of the USA in awareness and Karma Nirvana even trains law enforcement so that the signs that someone could be a potential forced marriage victim can be spotted; and the correct plan of action is carried out to help a victim, and not send them back in harm’s way. There are so many charities there now that exist to help victims – there’s probably at least thirty if not more.
Here in the USA, we are making progress. We now have Tahirih Justice Center, Unchained At Last, California Coalition to End Child Marriage | Global Hope 365 and the AHA Foundation. We also have great organizations involved in the fight to end child marriage world-wide, such as Girls Not Brides, Freedom United, and Plan International.
For Further Reading
More Petitions For You To Sign
Here’s a petition to stop child marriage in New York. Naila Amin was forced to marry at the age of 13! This should anger everyone, and everyone should ask how did this happen here in the USA? I like to share because I signed that petition too – it can never hurt to sign as many petitions that come across your way, especially if you can help those that are most vulnerable, and have no voice. Please sign Naila Amin’s petition
Here’s another petition to stop child marriage in California. Sara Tasneem was just 15 years old when she was forced into child marriage. She gives some great reasons in her petition as to why child marriage has to stop. I encourage you to sign her petition too. Like I said, sign all the ones you come across, it doesn’t hurt, and hopefully it will help. Please sign Sara Tasneem’s petition
Here’s another petition to stop child marriage in the UK. Even though forced marriage is a criminal offense there, child marriage is still occurring and again, it’s the same problem as what we have in the USA – judges are going off the parents consent, and we have to stop this from happening. This petition was started by Payzee Mahmod, who was forced into marriage at the age of 16, and who lost her sister Banaz Mahmod to an honor killing. Honor killing is a by-product of what can happen to a girl if she doesn’t give into an arranged marriage or forced marriage. I’ve signed this petition too – it doesn’t matter where you live, just sign – we are all in this together! Please sign Payzee Mahmod’s petition.