Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 July 2019

The women’s majlis: Forced marriage needs to be halted

In most parts of the world, marriage is a happy occasion – a celebration of love and the next chapter of one’s life. For many young girls, however, it’s not always such a happy occasion.

In most parts of the world, marriage is a happy occasion – a celebration of love and the next chapter of one’s life. For many young girls, however, it’s not always such a happy occasion. In countries such as Yemen, girls as young as 12 are forced into marriage, for various reasons.

Girls and women around the world need to have a say in what goes on in their lives and know they can refuse a marriage proposal if they so desire. It should be her right to not have it enforced upon her in any way.

Why would a young girl be taken out of school just to get married? Doesn’t she deserve an education? Children deserve to have a childhood – we can’t take that away from them. Why pressure them into getting married? How can a child take care of a man, a house and herself at such a young age?

Anne Goddard, the president and chief executive of ChildFund International, a global child-development organisation dedicated to helping vulnerable children living in poverty, says parents in places such as Yemen allow their daughters to marry at a young age because they’re afraid they are going to be sexually active early, before they’re married, which would bring dishonour to the family. I disagree. If parents raise their children with morals and treat them properly, shame shouldn’t be an issue parents have to worry about.

Poverty is believed to be another motivator. Perhaps the parents can’t afford to raise, educate and feed a child. Even so, that shouldn’t push them to give away their girl before she’s reached adulthood.

In Africa, the way that the authorities are dealing with this issue is impressive, giving girls food at the end of every week so they stay at school and so their parents don’t complain about not being able to afford to raise them. This is a great, simple step towards change.

Some of us are way too blessed and happy to take a moment to look at how others are living. I watched a video on YouTube recently that showed a pregnant Yemeni girl who was in labour for three days before dying along with her newborn child. She was just 12.

What is the fate of those innocent babies born in similar circumstances? Who’ll take care of them? Who’ll provide them with love and nurturing? A 12-year-old needs someone to take care of her. How do you expect a child to have a child and raise it? How can their families celebrate when such girls wed?

Girls are a gift that must be treasured, held closely and nurtured. The words of Brigham Young ring true here: “You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you ­educate a generation.”

Shamma Mohd Abdulla AlMarri is a Zayed University student majoring in international relations.

If you have a good story to tell or an interesting issue to debate, contact Shireena Al Nowais on salnuwais@thenational.ae.

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Updated: May 14, 2015 04:00 AM

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