Medically, anyone below 18years is a child! And we treat them as one! I will focus on “child brides” and how early marriage affects their obstetric, physical, mental, emotional, and social health. These are the problems of child marriage.
OBSTETRIC HEALTH. A child giving birth to a child! That is the problem! Many of these child-brides have under-developed pelvis (hip-bone) which are too small for the baby to pass through conveniently. Obstructed labor! The pressure destroys the tissues leading to bizarre, irritating, shameful medical problems. Faeces could be coming out through the vagina! The child (mother) might lose control of urine. 2 million female adolescents are living with this now! They are then divorced, ostracized, and humiliated! Not to talk of the higher risk of bleeding, convulsion, and infection before, during, and after childbirth. Their babies are more likely to be premature, and early child death is high. What is this?!
EMOTIONAL HEALTH. They are children. Early marriage denies them the opportunity to BE children, to play, to explore, and to discover. They are still emotionally immature, and find it difficult coping with challenges of life, marriage, and the heinous task of raising a family. They have poor decision-making skills. That’s why they are not allowed to vote or be voted for. They experience isolation and loneliness and, are therefore, highly prone to clinical depression. Their basic human rights are denied. They are usually secretly unhappy. This is emotional disease!
SOCIAL HEALTH. They have poor relational skills. They missed the opportunity of bonding with their age mates. They are not given the right to choose their life-partner and most even hardly know their groom before marriage. In fact, some are “married” at birth, and given away at about 7 years of age. No consents. No full understanding of the terms of the marriage contract. No freedom of choice. They feel powerless, and oppressed. And they make poor mothers. They form cold families. This is social disease!
MENTAL HEALTH. They are not given the power to explore their world. To learn. To discover. No adventure. Low intelligence. Lost childhood. Their child-like inquisitive nature is suppressed and killed. Low IQ. Most times early marriage prevents adequate and relevant education. They become economically dependent. No self development. No talent discovery and expression. Say “no” to poor mental health!
PHYSICAL HEALTH. They are still growing. They have their own special immune challenges and peculiar illness, being children. Pregnancy further depresses the immunity. They are prone to getting infections. Contrary to the belief that child marriage protects from promiscuity and disease, girl-brides are more likely than unmarried girls to become infected with STDs, especially HIV and HPV. Men who are likely to take girl-wives are usually polygamous or have multiple sex partners. Hymenal, vaginal, and cervical lacerations, research says, increases the risk of HIV transmission rate from HIV-infected husbands who disvirgin these girl-wives.
Just because the men are rich and love virgins [Come, what’s this craze about virgins?!]; and the girl’s parents need money and needed to reduce the mouths they have to feed; or because they want to maintain social ties, status, and culture; 25,000 girls are married yearly without their full consent, and 42% of that figure comes from Africa! And with all these medical consequences! Kai!
Please, let’s help ourselves. Free them! Educate them! Give them the power to choose! Speak up! Today. Now.