Problems and health concerns with underage marriage all around the world but especially in 3rd world countries.
Impact of Underage Marriage
On Teenage Lives
Underage marriage has been a major problem throughout history and especially in India. Underage marriages expose many teenage lives to harms and dangers that normally wouldn’t result from marrying during adulthood. Along with underage marriage are major health issues for the mother and the child ranging from physical damage to mental deterioration. Many risks are involved with underage marriage but a majority of the population in India is still involved with this practice either due to religion, poverty and many more reasons. With all of these risks, it can be concluded that underage marriage has long-term negative effects.
Underage marriages are caused by many factors but many times, it’s the parents that set them up for their daughters and marry them off to which many times are older and rich grooms (“NU Rules in Favor” 1). Many times, this is due to social problems such as the lack of education and poverty. According to the National Development Planning Agency, in 2008, about 34.5 percent of the two million marriages involved underage brides or grooms in Indonesia. However, in India, the numbers soar way above that of Indonesia and researchers have estimated as much as 40 to 50 percent of marriages containing underage brides and grooms which are set by the law to be 18 for girls and 21 for boys. Even though laws have been set to restrict underage marrying in India, little has been done to reinforce this. Parents have argued that it is necessary to marry off daughters as it saves the burden of feeding them and educating them. In addition, the younger they marry off the child, the
lower the dowry or gifts that has to be given to the groom’s family. Also, parents have said that it relieves the girl and preserves her honor knowing that she has been married off (Gentleman 1).
Underage marriage has been going on for many centuries now and much has been done to try and lower the amounts of this practice. Many of these attempts were futile and only caused outrage as with Shakuntala Verma. Her limbs had been slashed by a local villager when she had tried to prevent underage marriages by visiting homes to persuade families not to go on with underage marriages. She described most of the children being age 15 and 16 but the youngest being 10 (Gentleman 1). Laws have also been set up to prevent underage marriages but these laws are rarely enforced as shown by a survey that was conducted in 2001. The survey indicated that no more than 89 prosecutions in India a year. Another reason that underage marriage has been around for centuries and hard to rid of is that the Sharia, the Muslim sacred code of law, does not set an age limitation for marriages (“NU Rules in Favor” 1). Abhay Chhajlani, a chief editor of a newspaper had said this about the restriction of underage marriages, “It is not possible to stop it. Have we been able to end alcoholism or untouchability?”(Gentleman 1)
Underage marriage has many more harms than benefits it provides with many health problems and mental deterioration. Not only is the health of the mother in harm but also the infant’s if there were to be children between the husband and the underage wife. Health problems that are associated with underage marriage and pregnancies are pre-mature pregnancies, maternal mortality, infant mortality, pre-mature childbirth, HIV/AIDS and abuse along with violence. More so, a health condition called a fistula could develop where the blood supply is cut off to the vagina and the bladder resulting in dead tissues that would allow urine to pass through uncontrollably (“Underage Girls’ Marriage”). Underage marriages commonly occur in very poor areas and so, improper medical care due to few medical facilities will increase the chance of young women getting illnesses like those. Women who have these fistulas are often abandoned by husbands, rejected by communities and forced to live isolated from communities. There are about 2 million girls living with fistulas and over 100,000 new cases every year (“Underage Girls’ Marriages”). Statistics have shown that mothers who have babies before 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than those in their twenties. Another statistic shows that it isn’t just the mother’s health that is in danger but also the baby’s if the mother is pregnant. The mortality rate for babies born to mothers under 20 is about 75 percent higher than older women. Other than physical health, the mental physicality of young brides just aren’t mature enough to handle being a mother or even to be a bride yet. Adarsh Bhargav who is the head of the gynecology department agrees with this statement. “They’re often not psychologically prepared to be mothers because they’re children themselves. Many are irritated by their newborn’s crying…”(Magnier A.22). Another person that is against underage marriages is Susilahati. She explains that underage marriages often result in divorces due to the children’s unstable psychological condition (“Leads to Underage Marriage”). Other than the well being of the bride, problems such as illiteracy will arise due to lack of education. Most girls in rural areas cannot attend school because usually, they will have to travel long distances and their parents will prevent them from doing that fearing that they could be raped and even sexually harassed which could cause the groom to break off the engagement ruining the bride’s reputation (Magnier A.22).
Underage marriage is still present today in many third world countries where poverty is high. Underage marriage doesn’t have enough benefits with all the harm it brings to the bride along with health issues, mental issues and lack of education. Even after many people started to recognize all these harms caused by underage marriage, it is still an ongoing problem even after many years of damaging the young lives of people. With all these risks involved in underage marriage it is to conclude that underage marriage has many severe long-term negative effects.
Gentleman, Amelia. “Indian Families Defend Child-Marriage Tradition.”
International Herald Tribune. 2 June.2005: 1
Magnier, Mark. “Child Marriage Still Common in India; But More Girls are Refusing
to Wed so Young.” Boston Globe. 27 November. 2009. A.22.
“NU Rules In Favor of Underage Marriages.” The Jakarta Post. 27 March. 2010: 1
“Poverty, Lack of Education Lead to Underage Marriages.” The Jakarta Post.
12 September. 2009
Underage Girl’s Marriage: Issues and Problems. 16 October. 2009. Daily Trust.
1 July. 2010.