Category Archives: Child Brides/Forced Marriages

Zimbabwe Child Brides Fight Back in Court

Across sub-Saharan Africa, 40 percent of women are married as children.

Across sub-Saharan Africa, 40 percent of women are married as children.

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Two former child brides have taken Zimbabwe’s government to court in a ground-breaking bid to get child marriages declared illegal and unconstitutional.

Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi say child marriage, which is rife in Zimbabwe, is a form of child abuse which traps girls in lives of poverty and suffering.

“I’ve faced so many challenges. My husband beat me. I wanted to stay in school but he refused. It was very, very terrible,” said Tsopodzi, a mother of one, who was married at 15.

“I want to take this action to make a difference,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Harare on Tuesday. “There are a lot of children getting married.”

Data published last year indicates one third of girls in Zimbabwe marry before their 18th birthday and 5 percent before they turn 15.

Child marriage deprives girls of education and opportunities, jeopardizes their health and increases the risks of exploitation, sexual violence, domestic abuse and death or serious injury in childbirth.

In their statements to the Constitutional Court, Tsopodzi and Mudzuru, now 19 and 20, say Zimbabwe’s Marriage Act is discriminatory because it sets the minimum age at 16 for girls and 18 for boys. The Customary Marriage Act sets no minimum age.

They say the law should be brought into line with Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution as well as regional and international treaties banning child marriage.

The 2013 constitution says every child under 18 has the right to parental care, education and protection from “economic and sexual exploitation”.

It does not set a minimum marriage age, but states that no one should be forced to marry against their will and indicates that 18 is the minimum age for starting a family.

VICIOUS CIRCLE

Poverty is the driving force behind child marriage in Zimbabwe. Parents often marry girls off so they have one less mouth to feed. Dowry payments may be a further incentive.

Some communities also see child marriage as a way of protecting girls from having premarital sex.

In her affidavit, Mudzuru described how child marriage and poverty create a vicious circle.

“Young girls who marry early and often in poor families are then forced to produce young children in a sea of poverty and the cycle begins again,” she stated.

Mudzuru, who was married at 16 and had two children before she was 18, said her life was “hell” and she spent her days trapped in drudgery.

“My life is really tough. Raising a child when you are a child yourself is hard,” she said by phone from her home in Harare. “I should be going to school.”

The girls’ lawyer, former finance minister Tendai Biti, presented the legal challenge in January.

Beatrice Savadye, who heads rights group ROOTS which is backing the ground-breaking case, said it had generated a lot of interest both inside Zimbabwe and in other countries in the region.

She said it was unclear when the court would give its decision, but that it had to rule within six months.

Globally, some 15 million girls are married off every year. Across sub-Saharan Africa, 40 percent of women are married as children.

 

Plight of Child Grooms

Child Grooms

Iraq’s New Child Marriage Bill Would Allow Men to Marry 9-Year-Olds

iraq

A draft law being considered in Iraq would allow girls as young as nine to get married, and strip all women of significant human rights.

by  SAMEER N. YACOUB and SINAN SALAHEDDIN

BAGHDAD (AP) — A contentious draft law being considered in Iraq could open the door to girls as young as nine getting married and would require wives to submit to sex on their husband’s whim, provoking outrage from rights activists and many Iraqis who see it as a step backward for women’s rights.

The measure, aimed at creating different laws for Iraq’s majority Shiite population, could further fray the country’s divisions amid some of the worst bloodshed since the sectarian fighting that nearly ripped the country apart after the U.S.-led invasion. It also comes as more and more children under 18 get married in the country.

“That law represents a crime against humanity and childhood,” prominent Iraqi human rights activist Hana Adwar told The Associated Press. “Married underage girls are subjected to physical and psychological suffering.

Iraqi law now sets the legal age for marriage at 18 without parental approval. Girls as young as 15 can be married only with a guardian’s approval.

The proposed new measure, known as the Jaafari Personal Status Law, is based on the principles of a Shiite school of religious law founded by Jaafar al-Sadiq, the sixth Shiite imam. Iraq’s Justice Ministry late last year introduced the draft measure to the Cabinet, which approved it last month despite strong opposition by rights groups and activists.

The draft law does not set a minimum age for marriage. Instead, it mentions an age in a section on divorce, setting rules for divorces of girls who have reached the age of 9 years in the lunar Islamic calendar. It also says that’s the age girls reach puberty. Since the Islamic calendar year is 10 or 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, that would be the equivalent of 8 years and 8 months old. The bill makes the father the only parent with the right to accept or refuse the marriage proposal.

Critics of the bill believe that its authors slipped the age into the divorce section as a backhanded way to allow marriages of girls that young. Already, government statistics show that nearly 25 percent of marriages in Iraq involved someone under the age of 18 in 2011, up from 21 percent in 2001 and 15 percent in 1997. Planning Ministry spokesman Abdul-Zahra Hendawi said the practice of underage marriage is particularly prevalent in rural areas and some provinces where illiteracy is high.

Also under the proposed measure, a husband can have sex with his wife regardless of her consent. The bill also prevents women from leaving the house without their husband’s permission, would restrict women’s rights in matters of parental custody after divorce and make it easier for men to take multiple wives.

Main Entry ImageIn this Thursday, March 13, 2014 photo, women pass by a banner for the Jaafari Personal Status Law in Baghdad, Iraq. The Arabic on the banner reads, “The Jaafari Personal Status Law is for you and all of us.”

Parliament must still ratify the bill before it becomes law. That is unlikely to happen before parliamentary elections scheduled for April 30, though the Cabinet support suggests it remains a priority for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s administration. Al-Maliki is widely expected to seek a third term.

Baghdad-based analyst Hadi Jalo suggested that election campaigning might be behind the proposal.

“Some influential Shiite politicians have the impression that they should do their best to make any achievement that would end the injustice that had been done against the Shiites in the past,” Jalo said.

The formerly repressed Shiite majority came to power after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-led regime. Since then, Shiite religious and political leaders have encouraged followers to pour in millions into streets for religious rituals, a show of their strength.

Iraqi Justice Minister Hassan al-Shimmari, a Shiite, has brushed off the criticism of the bill. His office introduced a companion bill that calls for the establishment of special Shiite courts that would be tied to the sect’s religious leadership.

Al-Shimmari insists that the bill is designed to end injustices faced by Iraqi women in past decades, and that it could help prevent illicit child marriage outside established legal systems.

“By introducing this draft law, we want to limit or prevent such practices,” al-Shimmari said.

But Sunni female lawmaker Likaa Wardi believes it violates women’s and children’s rights and creates divisions in society.

“The Jaffari law will pave the way to the establishments of courts for Shiites only, and this will force others sects to form their own courts. This move will widen the rift among the Iraqi people,” Wardi said.

New York-based Human Rights Watch also strongly criticized the law this week.

“Passage of the Jaafari law would be a disastrous and discriminatory step backward for Iraq’s women and girls,” deputy Middle East director Joe Stork said in a statement. “This personal status law would only entrench Iraq’s divisions while the government claims to support equal rights for all.”

It is unclear how much support the bill enjoys among Iraqi Shiites, but Jalo, the analyst, believes that it would face opposition from secular members of the sect.

Qais Raheem, a Shiite government employee living in eastern Baghdad, said the draft bill contradicts the principles of a modern society.

“The government officials have come up with this backward law instead of combating corruption and terrorism,” said Raheem who has four children, including two teenage girls. “This law legalizes the rape and we should all reject it.”

Iraq Child Marriage Bill

Brides from Vietnam up for Sale in China

Brides from Vietnam up for Sale in China
“Don’t cry on Singles’ Day. Go to Vietnam and find yourself a bride!”
This was the unusual slogan used by group buying website 55tuan.com as part of a special promotion, which offered a free trip to Vietnam for one lucky person, provided he married a Vietnamese woman.
The online activity was launched on November 6, five days before Singles’ Day, which falls on November 11 every year (symbolized by its date, 11.11). On this day, young Chinese mockingly celebrate their single status.
The offer to “group buy” a Vietnamese bride struck a chord with single men in China, as the cost of marrying a Chinese woman continues to grow and bachelors lament their dwindling chances to find a mate. Nearly 30,000 people had participated in the lottery.
Central government departments also took note, but for other reasons entirely. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security both issued warnings about the risks of finding Vietnamese wives through matchmakers, which is the most common method for Chinese men to find a Vietnamese bride.
The risks go both ways. Buyers may end up swindled out of money or with an unwilling wife, and the women involved in these schemes risk being swallowed by people-smuggling and prostitution rackets.
These illegal matchmaking services have long existed in China and a lack of action from authorities against agents has resulted in the expansion of the industry, which now ranges from relatively above board, all the way to the bowels of organized crime.
High Cost of Marriage
A representative surnamed Xu from 55yuan.com told the Global Times that the website was not cooperating with matchmaking brokers, and simply offered the winner reimbursement of trip costs as long as he provided an authentic marriage certificate with a Vietnamese woman.
The move was obviously a clever publicity stunt, but it did demonstrate that there is a strong market in China for marriages with Vietnamese women, and that despite warnings from international anti-trafficking agencies that high demand from China creates a market for people-smuggling, there isn’t a stigma attached.
The lottery described Vietnamese women as “virtuous” and “traditional” and said they were not as materialistic as their Chinese counterparts. That is also what Ren Xuan (pseudonym), a 30-year-old man preparing to travel to Vietnam, thinks. After several frustrating blind dates and increasing pressure from his family to get married, Ren made the decision to find a Vietnamese wife. “Young women in China just gave me the cold shoulder as they were disappointed with my economic situation. I don’t think I stand a chance of finding a wife here,” said Ren, who works at a private company in Xiangyang, Central China’s Hubei Province.
He said that after reading media reports that described marriage to Vietnamese women as “bliss,” he began saving.
A report released in September by a domestic dating website, which polled 90 million of its members about their views on marriage, showed that 68 percent of single women care about the wealth of their prospective spouses.
Legal Gray Zone
The practice of finding Vietnamese women isn’t new, but previously the market was largely confined to migrant workers or farmers from poor villages. But as with most markets in China, things have changed.
“We have all kinds of customers, from farmers, white-collar workers, and even people who have returned from overseas,” said a staff member surnamed Qiu from a Guangzhou-based matchmaking agency, which specializes in blind dates between Chinese men and Vietnamese women.
These matchmaking brokers charge each customer 30,000 to 60,000 yuan ($4,900 to $9,850), which covers costs such as a dowry, a wedding feast and visas. In addition, traveling expenses and other fees can reach up to 15,000 yuan, and 2,000 to 5,000 yuan is expected to be given to the bride’s parents. Chinese men usually travel in a group with an agent and pick out a Vietnamese girl they like.
But this seemingly cozy arrangement is not without risks. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on November 9, stating that Chinese citizens are often cheated in these schemes.
Chen Shiqu, director of the Ministry of Public Security’s anti-human trafficking office, claimed on November 11 that Chinese marriage agencies are not allowed to source spouses from other countries and it is illegal for individuals to engage in international matchmaking for profit. As it is also illegal in Vietnam, people involved in the trade have nowhere to turn in the event of a dispute.
However, brokers remain unfazed. “We know the service is not allowed on the Chinese mainland, but it’s not clearly forbidden. If it was, there is no way that our service would have reliably sustained itself for nine years,” Qiu said, implying that the authorities tacitly consent to the service.
Qiu has a point. Online searches for media reports of these kinds of matchmaking agents being arrested yield a curious lack of results. “The punishment for such matchmaking brokers is just confiscating their business income and the Criminal Law doesn’t clearly define the conduct,” Hu Zhouxiong, a lawyer specializing in marriage cases involving foreigners with the Guangdong Bohao Law firm, told the Global Times, noting that the light punishment had resulted in the proliferation of these matchmakers.
He noted that the huge demand for the service is also a reason why the agents are not strictly punished. But that isn’t to say the industry isn’t causing arrests.
Dark Trade
The Ho Chi Minh-based newspaper Thanh Nien reported in September that two Chinese and seven Vietnamese nationals were arrested by Vietnamese police for trafficking women to China and selling them into marriage.
Media reports in recent years have also revealed that a number of Vietnamese brides had fled their Chinese husbands and were later caught and resold to other husbands, indicating they had been kidnapped.
“The agents were engaging in human trafficking when the Vietnamese women ‘changed hands,’ but Chinese men have no way of knowing whether the girls were smuggled into the country or not,” said Hu.
China is the largest market for people smugglers sourcing brides from Vietnam. According to a 2011 report on the trafficking of women and children from Vietnam, compiled by the British Embassy in Hanoi, “between 2005 and 2009 approximately 6,000 women and children were identified as being trafficked from Vietnam … Some 3,190 were trafficked to China for the purposes of forced marriage, or to be sexually exploited in brothels.”
But this number is not the total. The same report acknowledged the difficulty of calculating exact numbers, and pointed out that “victims have been forced to phone their families to reassure them they are well and have legal work, so that relatives do not report family members missing and alert the authorities.”

Ren, however, is eschewing the help of agents and is attempting it on his own. While this avoids supporting the people-smuggling trade, it poses its own challenges as he doesn’t know the language. “I have no other way, but I guess I can just give it a try,” Ren said.

India: Child Bride Married at 4, Divorced at 8

Child brides and grooms in India at their engagement ceremony PIC: Reuters

Child brides and grooms in India at their engagement ceremony PIC: Reuters

An eight year old girl has become the youngest person ever to be divorced in India after she was married off aged just four.

Fatima Mangre was given away by her father Anil, from the Shravasti district of Uttar Pradesh state, in an arranged a marriage with 10-year-old Arjun Bakridi.

However when the boy arrived four years later to take his new bride away, Anil said he wanted the girl to wait until she was 18 before leaving.

He said: ‘I finally realised that this practice of marrying off daughters so young was wrong and that she should have a childhood, and that it was my duty to provide that.’

However Arjun’s father Dipak was unhappy with the decision, and an argument broke out after which Anil filed for divorce.

Fatima Mangre was given away by her father Anil, from the Shravasti district of Uttar Pradesh state, in an arranged a marriage with 10-year-old Arjun Bakridi.

The state government of India’s has called for an inquiry into the incident that happened last week at Nakhi village in the Shravasti district of India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

It ordered the probe after the New Delhi-based National Commission for Women (NCW) member Nirmala Samant sent a letter, demanding details of the divorce and threatening action against the parents of the girl and the boy.

She said: ‘This is a scandal, we need more details before taking action. The girl’s father must answer why he married her off at four years old and the boy’s father must answer why he agreed to such a marriage and then went to demand the girl when she is barely eight years old.

‘This is insensitive, controversial and objectionable,’ she added.

However Fatima’s father has already written to NCW, saying he should be pardoned because he stopped his daughter from being taken away by her in-laws.

The northern state of Uttar Pradesh has one of the highest rates of child marriage in India, especially in he Shravasti district where Fatima was from

The northern state of Uttar Pradesh has one of the highest rates of child marriage in India, especially in he Shravasti district where Fatima was from

The northern state of Uttar Pradesh has one of the highest rates of child marriage in India, especially in he Shravasti district where Fatima was from (file picture)

‘I have already admitted my mistake. Social pressures are high in our village. But the marriage has been annulled. I have admitted it was wrong to marry her off so early,’ he said in a handwritten note.

He added: ‘I now want to make things right. I want to give my daughter a good childhood. I will do everything to protect her.’

Mr Bakridi has gone into hiding following the altercation.

According to UNICEF, over 32.9 percent of the girls are married against the national average of 22.1 percent below the legally permissible age of 18 in the state.

The Shravasti district accounts for the majority underage weddings in India where the female literacy is just 19 per cent.

Child Bride Divorced at Age 8

Forced to Marry: Beaten, Raped, Almost Murdered by Family

Campaigners and support groups say forced arranged marriage of young British Muslim girls is becoming a bigger problem every day

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Campaigners and support groups say forced arranged marriage of young British Muslim girls is becoming a bigger problem every day

By 

She grew up like most teenage girls in Britain – coveting the latest fashions, experimenting with make-up and hanging out with her mates after school.

Her Muslim parents, who ran a shop, were respected members of the community. Ayesha, whose name we have changed to protect her identity, was always encouraged to follow her dream of becoming a police officer.

But immediately she turned 18, she was taken on a family holiday to Pakistan – and her carefree life would never be the same again.

Days after arriving, she was forced by her father and two uncles into marrying a stranger.

Terrifyingly, it led to her being trapped in a marriage for four-and-a-half years, during which she was routinely raped.

When she dared to complain, she was threatened by her uncles. And when she tried to flee, they tracked her down and tried to kill her.

Ayesha eventually escaped, and today bravely tells her story to expose the growing problem of forced arranged marriages that is sweeping our towns and cities.

Each year 10,000 take place in the UK, and last month a shocking ITV documentary caught 12 Muslim clerics agreeing to marry off girls aged only 14.

Those youngsters who put up a fight often fall victim to honor-based violence, which can end in murder. even now Ayesha lives in hiding to protect herself.

As part of her campaign to raise awareness, she works with the police to help support other victims. Ayesha, now 36, says she enjoyed a “pretty normal school life”. She adds: “My parents were strict about not being allowed to mix with boys, go clubbing, have sleepovers or bare my legs. But apart from that I had a relaxed upbringing.”

She reveals how aged 17 she begged to be allowed to live in a flat-share while attending college.

“My parents finally gave in,” she says. “I went to the pub, had a drink and smoked, but didn’t go off the rails. Then things started to get weird.

“My uncle started turning up on my doorstep, saying I was bringing shame on our family. He said that if I ever left, he had a network of people and he would find me and kill me.

“I didn’t want to live the life of an Asian Muslim girl. I was British and I wanted to be just like everyone else… so I ran.”

But her family used a series of tricks to find her. “First they reported me to the police for theft,” she says.

Ayesha with her husband

Life of Hell: Ayesha with her husband

“Police turned up and alerted my family to my location. When I moved again, my uncles used my national insurance number to find me. They would turn up on my doorstep with death threats and blackmail.”

After months of harassment, Ayesha was so scared she went home. “That’s when I realised I was in even more danger,” she says. “My uncle tried to strangle me. My parents stood silently and watched him hurt and threaten me.”

Months later, in 1996, came the holiday to Pakistan. She says: “Loads of family started turning up telling me I should marry this man I’d never met. I was terrified. I realised there was no way I was going home unless I agreed to marry.”

She tells how it took a year for her new husband to get his visa to join her in the UK. Meantime she travelled back and forth.

“Our married life was hideous,” she says. “I was raped for the whole four-and-a-half years. He beat me, controlled and manipulated me. I felt worthless.”

When Ayesha dared rebel against her husband, her parents chillingly warned her: “Apologise or get divorced and marry an old man. You’re damaged goods now and no one else will want you.”

It was the final straw and she even attempted suicide. Luckily she was talked out of it by a friend.

She fled and made the decision never to contact her family again. But within days they had tracked her down to a friend’s house.

She tells how in November 2000, her uncles tried to kill her by ramming her car off the road.

Police were called and her husband and uncles were arrested on charges of attempted murder.

The charges were later dropped as police believed the family’s story that they feared she had been kidnapped and were trying to save her.

Six months later Ayesha moved away, met a new partner and they set up home together. But she says: “I slept with a knife under my pillow.”

She had no contact with her family for many years until in 2008 she learned that her grandmother had cancer. She got back in touch and now has limited contact with her parents.

But they have no idea where she lives, and she says her new partner wants nothing to do with them. Through it all, though, the family bonds are still strong – so much so that Ayesha is now even considering donating a kidney to her father, who is on the transplant list.

She says: “My partner doesn’t understand how I can even think about helping my dad after all that happened but I have had to forgive to stop the nightmares.”

As well as assisting the police, Ayesha is now also working with Karma Nirvana, a charity which helps victims like herself.

“When I made the call to them, I felt the weight of the world come off my shoulders,” she explains.