"This child marriage is legal"- a court judge rules!
A law allows a man to avoid imprisonment if he agreed to marry a partner who is a minor.
Caught between human rights and a regressive law, a court judge in Tunisia legalised a child marriage. A 13-year-old pregnant girl from the North western province ended up marrying a 20 year old relative who was responsible for her pregnancy. And he 'agreed' to marry her in order to escape imprisonment!
Tunisia, a small country in northern Africa, is one of the first in the region to acknowledge international treaties to ensure that the rights of children are safeguarded. In fact, having sexual intercourse with a girl below 15 years of age even without force is a criminal activity in Tunisia. The punishment is 6 years of imprisonment. However, there is also a dated article in the Tunisian penal code that halts this if the perpetrator agrees to marry the victim.
The ambiguity in the law means that it's interpretition is at the discretion of the judge. In this particular case, the judge decided to allow the marriage that took place despite the protest by various Human Rights organisations.
Child marriages are more common than you think
According to Girls Not Brides, a consortium committed to ending child marriages, each year, 15 million girls are married before they turn 18. A child marriage takes place every 2 seconds! This leads to a cascade of events: discontinued education, early (and often high risk) pregnancies, multiple pregnancies, health issues like anaemia, and a low status in the society.
It is prevalent mostly in developing countries with India, Bangladesh, and Nigeria grabbing the top 3 spots. The most common reason for this happening is because the law is not enforced when it comes to the preservation of faith. Thus, a girl child falls victim to physical and mental ravaging even before she is old enough to understand what is happening to her, all because her faith justifies it.
Can you do anything about it? Read on to find out.
What can we do about it?
We may not cross paths with people who let their daughters get married as children. However, it is not difficult to take up a cause. The internet has made it easier to pressurise the governments by signing petitions to change such draconian laws.
Here are 3 things you can do if you want to put an end to child marriage
- Raise your voice. It is not very difficult to find and sign petitions that aim at curbing such inhuman practices. If this happens in your country, you can meet like-minded people and help an NGO in the cause.
- Spread facts. This is the easiest thing that you can do. You can share facts about child marriage and the effects on social media. The power of Facebook and Twitter cannot be ignored.
- Support the NGOs. Activist organisations are always in need of resources, be it your time, energy or money. You will be surprised how much it will be appreciated.
Back in Tunisia, similar organisations are putting pressure on the government to abolish the age old law and safeguard the rights of children. A bill was proposed in 2014. If passed, it would make a deep impact on the lives of children who are married off at an early age. It will also stop providing a way out for rapists who end up marrying their victims in order to escape prison.
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