Friday, July 9, 2010

Saying No to Child Marriage

Throughout the world, the problem of early, forced marriages of children is considered to be a violation of basic human rights. It has been estimated that 49 countries have a significant child bride problem.

Here is an overview of the problem of child brides and solutions to the issue of early marriages.

Saying No to Child Marriage

Breaking out of the tradition to marry young is difficult. These girls do not often receive support from their families to say no to marriage.

Additionally, cultural, economic, and religious aspects of the communities when they live make it nearly impossible for the girls to break free from marrying early.
The Problem of Child Brides and Forced Marriages

* Egypt, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Pakistan, India, and the Middle East: In the rural villages of these countries many young girls are rarely allowed out of their homes unless it is to work in the fields or to get married.

These uneducated girls are often married off at the young age of 11. Some families allow girls who are only 7 years old to marry. It is very unusual for a girl to reach the age of 16 and not be married.

· In Afghanistan , it is believed that between 60 and 80 percent of marriages are forced marriages.

· Even though the legal age to get married in Egypt is 16, and in India and Ethiopia, the age is 18, these laws are quite often ignored.

* England and the United States: The issue of child brides has also reached other countries such as England and the United States where secret illegal weddings are being performed.

The awareness of early forced marriage and sexual abuse of young girls in the United States was increased by the April 2008 rescue of numerous children living on a ranch owned by a polygamist sect in Texas.
United Nations Report on the Violation of Basic Human Rights of Child Brides

According to a report issued by the United Nations, these early marriage unions violate the basic human rights of these girls by putting them into a life of isolation, service, lack of education, health problems, and abuse.

The UNICEF paper states: "UNICEF believes that, because marriage under the age of 18 may threaten a child's human rights (including the right to education, leisure, good health, freedom of expression, and freedom from discrimination), the best way to ensure the protection of children's rights is to set a minimum age limit of 18 for marriage.

UNICEF is opposed to forced marriages at any age, where the notion of consent is non-existent and the views of bride or groom are ignored, particularly when those involved are under age."

A forced marriage is a marriage that is performed under duress and without the full and informed consent or free will of both parties.

Being under duress includes feeling both physical and emotional pressure. Some victims of forced marriage are tricked into going to another country by their families. Victims fall prey to forced marriage through deception, abduction, coercion, fear, and inducements.

A forced marriage may be between children, a child and an adult, or between adults. Forced marriages are not limited to women and girls, as boys and men are also forced to marry against their will.

A forced marriage is considered to be domestic violence. As one of our readers (A.C.) pointed out, "From an international perspective forced marriage is considered a form of trafficking in persons and is a severe human rights violation."

Victims of forced marriages often experience physical violence, rape, abduction, torture, false imprisonment and enslavement, sexual abuse, mental and emotional abuse, and at times, murder.


“No marriage shall be legally entered into without the full and free consent of both parties, such consent to be expressed by them in person after due publicity and in the presence of the authority competent to solemnize the marriage and of witnesses, as prescribed by law.”

Poor health, early death, and lack of educational opportunities lead the list of problems attributed to child marriage.

* Child brides have a double pregnancy death rate of women in their 20s.

* In developing countries, the leading cause of death for young girls between the ages of 15 and 19 is early pregnancy.

* Additionally, from having babies too young, child brides are at an extremely high risk for fistulas (vaginal and anal ruptures).

* The babies of child brides are sicker and weaker and many do not survive childhood.

* Child brides have a higher risk of being infected with sexually transmitted diseases.

* These young girls are at an increased risk of chronic anemia and obesity.

* Child brides have poor access to contraception.

* These young girls have a lack of educational opportunities.

* Being forced into an early marriage creates a lifetime of poverty.

* Statistically, child brides have a higher risk of becoming a victim of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and murder.

Education is the most important key to helping end the practice of forced child marriages. Many believe that education may prove to be more successful in preventing child marriages than banning child marriages.

* Education of the parents is just as important as education of the children.

Education will broaden their horizons and will help convince parents of the benefits in having their children educated.

* It is important to provide education involving more than reading, writing, and math.

Teaching these young girls life skills, including reproduction and contraception information, how to have fun and how to play in sports, is proving to be a positive way to change the lives and futures of these adolescent girls.

* By providing more educational opportunities, India has been able to cut child marriage rates by up to two-thirds.

Friday, July 2, 2010

WOMEN NEWS: From The Gambian News Papers

Seminar on gender-based violence ends

Friday, July 02, 2010
The Point:
The Network on Gender-Based Violence, the Gambia, a joint local and Finnish initiative aimed at combating violence against women and girls in the Gambia recently held a one-day seminar on the theme: "Galvanising support and partnership in the fight against Gender-based violence" at the Liaco Atlantic Hotel in Banjul.

The seminar is a platform, which seeks to bring together NGO's and public institutions involved in women's empowerment, as well as to provide co-ordination and discussion of gender issues in the country. It among others seeks to bring about greater respect for the rights of women and girls and zero-tolerance for gender based violence.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Mrs. Haddy Mboge Barrow, the Volunteer Part-time Co-ordinator of NGBV said that when gender-based violence is addressed from all angles, the possibility of prevention becomes a reality.

"The Gambia joins the rest of the world to come up with potential responses within the state and civil society," she said.

Mr. Babucarr Ngum, the Chairperson of the network said that the Network believes that when the players are many in the fight against gender-based violence and the chorus is louder, they can be able to find solutions to gender-based violence in the Gambia.

Mrs. Fatou Mbye, chairman of the Women’s Council, gave a speech on behalf of the Vice President Madam Isatou Njie Saidy.

"Gender-based violence has profound implications on health but ignored.

Gender-based violence is usually invisible behind closed doors. It is not reported, not seen as a big problem but only seen as family matters," she said.

She added that the Women's Act 2010 is a clear manifestation of the Gambian Government’s effort to end Gender-based violence in the Gambia.
Author: Isatou Dumbuya

Rape suspect acquitted, discharged
Friday, July 02, 2010

The high court in Banjul on Monday acquitted and discharged Abdoulie Jallow who was charged with rape, and was on trial for two years at the Bundung Magistrates' Court and later at the Special Criminal Court in Banjul.

The high court acquitted and discharged the accused person, Abdoulie Jallow, following a no-case-to-answer submission by his defence counsel, Badou SM Conteh.

Abodoulie Jallow was first arraigned at Bundung Magistrates' Court before Principal Magistrate Kumba Sillah-Camara.

The case was later transferred to the Special Criminal Court, which was established to try persons who commit such offences.

The prosecution had called in three witnesses, but the accused person did not open his defence, since his counsel, lawyer Conteh decided to file a no-case submission, on the grounds that there was not substantial evidence against him.

Justice Ikpala, the presiding judge, subsequently acquitted and discharged the accused person, after ruling on the no-case submission.
Author: Sainey M.K. Marenah

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Rwanda's Children of Rape

Between April and June 1994, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the space of 100 days. Thousands of women were also raped. Sixteen years on from the genocide, Tim Whewell finds the horrors of those months have left their mark on a new generation.

Like 20,000 other Rwandan teenagers, Diane Kayirangwa was born out of the murderous chaos that killed so many in her country in 1994.

Her father was an unknown member of the Interahamwe - the ethnic Hutu militia licensed by the extremist government then in power to eradicate the Tutsi minority.

Her mother, Anastasie, was one of the Tutsi women targeted. She survived - but only just.

"I was raped on three occasions in different locations and by many different people," Anastasie says. "With the exception of one person, I didn't know who any of them were."

Anastasie Kayirangwa
There wasn't even a moment when I didn't love her. I've loved her ever since she was born
Rape victim Anastasie, speaking about her daughter

To compound her trauma, Anastasie was forced to leave her native village after she was threatened by neighbours who had killed the rest of her family.

Since then, like many other rape victims, she has been unable to find a husband. Instead, she provides for her daughter by buying and selling goods in her slum on the edge of the Rwandan capital Kigali.

But, despite all that she has endured, Anastasie says she has never regretted her decision 16 years ago to keep her daughter.

"There wasn't even a moment when I didn't love her. I've loved her ever since she was born," she says.

"My family gave her horrible nicknames like 'hyena'. But I've never wanted anything bad to happen to her."

A difficult bond

One of the most difficult moments, Anastasie recalls, was explaining to her daughter about the circumstances of her birth.

"Diane had already asked me. I told her when she was about 12 years old. She was grown up. I told her when we were alone," she says.

"It pained her. She cried, she stood up and she moved here and there because of anger."

I didn't see him as my child. I didn't love him at all
The mother of a boy born of rape

But Anastasie managed to convince her daughter that she loved her enough for two parents.

"[Then] she asked me if she was Hutu," Anastasie continues. "I told her that she was not Hutu, she was, rather, Tutsi because she was being cared for by me, because I was persecuted because of my tribe. But today we are all Rwandans because the issue of tribes is over."

For another mother and victim of rape, who does not want to be named, forming a bond with her child was not quite so easy.

After her son was delivered amid the squalor of a refugee camp, her first thought was to get rid of him down a latrine.

"I didn't see him as my child. I didn't love him at all," she says.

"In him, I saw the image of spears. I saw machetes. I saw very bad things," she continues.

'I've changed'

Like all children born of rape during the Rwandan genocide, her son will soon turn 16. But he doesn't yet know the circumstances of his birth and knows nothing of his mother's struggle.

Market in Rwanda
Many women make ends meet by buying and selling goods

But now, thanks to the support of other survivors of rape, his mother has learned to separate her son from the hatred she feels for those who raped her.

"I saw him as a killer, a son of a killer - but, of course, he was innocent, it wasn't him who did these things. I found other women who had similar problems as me. I didn't know that there were others who suffered the same. I thought I was alone," she says.

"So now I've changed. Now he sees that I'm close to him. We go out together. We walk around in Kigali."

However, she knows that one day she will have to tell her son about what happened. But for now, she has great ambition for him.

"I would like to get a sponsor to help him to get education so that when he grows he will be able help himself and others," she says.

Whether Rwanda's children of rape are able to escape its stigma will be, perhaps, a measure of how far the country itself has managed to put its violent past behind it.

For her part, Anastasie is confident her daughter Diane will not be defined by the identity of her father.

"A proverb says, 'Upbringing is better than being born'. Besides, she is a child born in a different Rwanda. I hope that her future will be good," she says.

"Memories of 1994 are not brought back by Diane. 1994 is no longer prevailing in me. Instead of remembering 1994, I think what my children would eat - their education. 1994 is no longer in me."