What Are the Long Term Impacts of Child Marriage?

I agree with the notion that the minimum age of marriage in Malaysia should be raised. There are a lot of bad impacts on the young bride compared to positive effects that trigger the society and authority to amend the current law regarding the legal age for marriage. According to Volgestein (2013), early marriage was used as an instrument to maximize fertility in the context of high mortality rates. Currently in Malaysia, the legal age for marriage is 16 years old. However, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail is trying to amend the law where the legal age for marriage will be increased from 16 to 18 years old.

According to Ashraf (2018), recently Selangor has amended its law on Keluarga Islam (Selangor) Enactment and Tatacara Mal Mahkamah Syariah (Selangor) Enactment in raising the marriage legal age at 18 years old. That made Selangor is the first state to impose such a law.

Alanen (2016) explained that the terms of “forced marriage” described where one or both spouses will be united without their own consent, under physical force or psychological duress.

A forced marriage differs from an arranged marriage where the arranged marriage will be done with the consent of both spouses to involve a third party in it while forced marriage does not. In this matter, it clearly can be seen that most underage marriages are forced marriage. This statement is strengthened by Miller’s (2015) explanation that child marriage could be claimed as forced marriage since they are minors and presumed unable of giving informed consent. She further explained that extreme involuntary marriage may include other things such as abduction, threats, rape, imprisonment, and even death.

Forced marriage is the most horrible form of child abuse and is also a form of human rights and children’s rights violations (Miller, 2015). Forced marriage literally some kind of platform for sex slave, abuse, and gender inequalities. Most child marriages are between 12 years old girl with an older man that is old enough to be her father. The purpose to increase the minimum age for marriage is basically to end child marriage or young bride practice due to its lots of negative outcomes whether for short term or long term.

The first reason on why such practice should not be happening anymore is it will affect the girl’s physical health badly. As far as we concern, young girl’s physical or body is not ready or suitable yet for any sexual activity. There is a common belief that child marriage will help in protecting young girls from any pre-marital sexual behavior where in reality it is not. According to Nour (2006), girls who are married tend to be infected with HIV more than girls who are not. Nour (2006) added that there is a hypothesis regarding this matter where a young girl may be physiologically more liable to HIV infection because her vagina is not yet well lined with protective cells and her cervix may be more easily eroded. Most young girls were infected with HIV due to sexual intercourse with their HIV infected husbands. Other than that, young girls in Kenya are under pressure to prove their fertility which leads to unprotected intercourse. This happened because as mentioned before, most young girls were married off to older men. Due to his age, he must have a lot of sexual activity with different partners that became the source of HIV infection. Since these girls are reliant on their husbands, they cannot request their husbands to do any HIV test (Nour, 2006).

According to Global Health Council on Adolescent Youth as cited by Alanen (2016), not fully formed reproductive and immune systems of adolescent girls increase their risk for sexually transmitted infections and difficulties during pregnancy and childbirth. Girls aged 15 years and younger are five-times more likely to die during giving birth than women between the ages of 20 and 24 years old. Nour (2006) elaborated that one of the major reasons of death due to childbirth is obstructed labor. Obstructed labor is a result of a girl’s pelvis being too small to deliver a baby. The fetus’s head passes into the vagina, but its shoulders could not pass through the mother’s pelvic bones. If cesarean has not been done, both newborns and mothers could die. In other cases, only the mother survived.

Physical health would always be followed by psychological health. It is important to know that child marriage does not only affect physically but it also affects mentally. According to Nour (2006), during childbirth, there is a possibility of young mothers to face fistulas. Fistulas happened due to the force from the fetus’s head on the vagina wall that causes tissue necrosis. This is because their bones are not fully ready for pregnancy and delivery. Fistulas will cause fecal or urinary incontinence and peroneal nerve palsy that lead to embarrassment and resulting depression. Other than that, “bride abduction” is a practice of marrying female adolescents without their approval in Kyrgyzstan. Some brides that were abducted are as young as 12 years old. In some cases, the bride will be brought to the abductor’s house and raped. The purpose of doing so was to make the girl feel humiliated of herself and unable to return to her parents’ house (Miller, 2015). According to Alanen (2016), some victims feeling extremely isolated and depressed that they decided to commit suicide at the end as an escape from the miserable life.

The next premise to support my stance is child marriage promotes criminal activity and spousal violence. This is quite a serious matter that the authority and society to look into. In some parts of the country, there are customs about honor in marriage. According to Alanen (2016), when families migrate, their customs and belief migrate with them. Alanen (2016) added that there was an Iraqi immigrant woman that was detained for padlocked her 19 years old daughter to a bed and burned her face and chest just because she denied to marry a 38 years old man that her parents had set for her. Apart from that, there was also an Iraqi father that commit murder in the name of “honor killing” where he ran over his own daughter with a car because she fled the marriage arranged for her and be with the man that she wanted (Alanen, 2016). Girls who resist performing marriage has a high risk of being beaten and raped. Some families choose violence or even murder in order to punish girls who are perceived to have shamed themselves and dishonored their families by against their parents’ will to marry her off with their selected man. A lot of behavioral displays of forced marriage resemble indicators of domestic violence.

According to Alanen (2016), a 12 years old girl named Reem opposed her father’s plan to force her into marriage with her 30 years old cousin. As a result, her father gagged her and tied her up, and even threatened to kill her for disobeying him. In another case, Aisha fled her forced marriage to run away from abuse and beatings. Unfortunately, she was being hunted down by her husband. When she has been found, her husband cut off her ear and nose as a penalty for running away. She died due to choking with her own blood. Some extreme families hiding their awful act under the name of ‘honor’ killing to legalize the murder.

Other negative effects that will arise due to child marriage is it will affect the young bride’s education. Alanen (2016) mentioned that most married girls were excluded from school at an earlier age, lessening their capacity for independence and perpetuating a cycle of poverty. Usually, when girls marry at an early age, her education will be ended. According to Parsons, J., Edmeades, A., Kes, A., Petroni, S., Sexton, M., and Wodon, Q. (2015), girls who married early will be withdrawn from their social relations and support structure that schools offer. The earlier a girl gets married the lower her level of education would be. According to Dagne (1994), these young brides were denied many years of education and even on a primary level due to limitations in their life choices making. A young bride who has low education level will affect their rights to information regarding health and wellbeing towards her and her children. According to Boyle et al, (2006), as cited by Parsons, J. et al, (2015), education and knowledge about health are associated together and it could be used by the girls to encourage education and health of their children. Mothers who have a higher education would focus more on family resources on their children’s nutrition. Therefore, the children of young mothers who have lower education levels are more likely to not be well-nourished and immunized against child disease which could lead to death. Parsons, J. et al, (2015) added that girls whose mothers have had no or less education tend to be married off at an early age that will add to the cycle of poverty in subsequent generations.

As we know, married girls are typically out of schools this happened due to the lack of ability to make decisions on whether she should continue her studies or otherwise that caused limitation to their learning, mathematical ability, and financial skills. Child marriage places a girl entirely under the control of her husband and in-laws that became a barrier for her to voice out her opinions regarding her life plans (Parsons, J. et al, 2015). Other than that, married girls also lack the ability to speak up to her husband about sexual activity, contraceptive use or family planning. In some other cases, some girls are incapable to stand against the mentally and physically violence by her husband and in-laws that she had to go through (Parsons, J. et al, 2015). This is an outbreak from the lack of access to education that occurred from child marriage. The ability to contribute in life decision making and education are indirectly related together. If the girl did not has to go through child marriage, she would has the option to pursue her studies and her life plans that could drag her far from unhealthy marriage. When a girl who is well educated, she could plan her family economy in a better way and raised her children with full of knowledge.

In a nutshell, I stand with my stance that the minimum age of marriage should be set higher in an attempt to stop Malaysian from performing child marriage. For instance, the case in Gua Musang, Kelantan where an 11 years old girl marry a 41 years old man (Bernama, 2018). Child marriage brings more negative effects than positive effects that urge me to stand with my stance that 16 years old as minimum age should be amended and raised to 18 years old.

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