Child marriage, an unspoken kind of violence – International Day of the Girl 2014

Credit: Rebecca Vassie | Girls Not Brides

When Kalinde married at the age of 15, she was told to respect her husband and “never deny him sex.” She found herself trapped in a marriage that she did not want and over which she had little control. Every year, 15 million other girls face a similar fate.

On 11 October, the world celebrates International Day of the Girl, a chance to reflect on the challenges that girls face daily around the world. This year’s theme, “Empowering adolescent girls: Ending the cycle of violence”, offers an opportunity to call for action on child marriage, a practice that has violent consequences for girls.

Child marriage is violence against girls

According to the World Health Organisation, one in three women and girls experience violence in their lifetime. Child marriage is a manifestation of that violence, putting women and girls at risk of sexual, physical and psychological violence throughout their lives.

Ela Bhatt of The Elders describes the unspoken, yet very real, kind of violence presented by child marriage as one that is happening “with the consent of society.”

Why is child marriage a form of violence against girls? Read our blog to find out.

Accelerating change to end child marriage

2014 has been an important year for efforts to end child marriage. The African Union launched a continental campaign to end child marriage in Africa, the Girl Summit saw an unprecedented number of countries committing to address the issue, and a number of leaders have recognised child marriage as a critical issue to the post-2015 development agenda.

But change isn’t happening fast enough. Recent UNICEF data shows that 280 million girls are at risk of becoming child brides and that, if we don’t see any reduction in child marriage, nearly 1.2 billion women and girls will have married as children by 2050.

In a recent trip to Zambia, Archbishop Desmond Tutu witnessed how civil society, government ministries, traditional chiefs and girls themselves can work together to end child marriage and build a better future for all.

Ending child marriage is possible but for this vision to come true, girls need to be able to learn about their rights and develop the confidence they need to claim them; traditional chiefs and community members need to support girls and promote alternatives to marriage; government ministries need to ensure that girls and their families have access to education and health services, and that adequate laws are in place to protect girls from abuse.

If we all work together, change is possible.

What you can do to help

Call for an end to child marriage: Download our social media toolkit.

Donate to projects improving the lives of girls. Girls Not Brides is partnering with Global Giving UK and Catapult, two online fundraising platforms, to channel funds to grassroots organisations and to improve the lives of women and girls around the world:

Do you live in the USA? Girls Not Brides USA is calling on the U.S. State Department to create and implement a strategy to end child marriage. Join their campaign!

Spread the word! Download these resources and make some noise about child marriage on social media.