Friday, 18 July 2014

Reflections on social injustices that are Faced by the Girl Child – Cases of Forced Marriages in Malawi

The notion that marriage is a mutual union of two individuals seems to be an evasive dream for most girls in Malawi. As a country, Malawi ranks amongst the top 10 countries where child marriages are rampant. According to the Malawi Demographic Health Survey (2010), almost 50% of the girls get married before their 18th birthday and are often faced with a lot of coercion and intimidation that translates into emotional abuse.

Such factors increase vulnerability of young brides. They face gender based violence in each and every day of their married life. In addition to this, there are also imminent hazards that await them during child birth - obstetric complications like fistula. Furthermore, such young girls are also faced by a huge challenge of illiteracy as they get married before they even reach senior classes of their primary school education. 
Usually, the young girls do not get married out of their own free will, they are coerced to do so. This generally deprives off an individual’s right to almost everything. 
In the northern parts of Malawi there are practices like “Chitomero” (betrothal), whereby parents and families discuss marriage arrangements of a young girl without her consent let alone her knowledge. In addition to this, there is “Nthena” (Bonus wife) which is practiced in the Southern Region of Malawi, more especially in the Shire Valley whereby the most favored son-in law is given the younger sister of wife as a reward for being a good so-in-law without the bride’s consent.
Forced marriages are a threat to the development of young children who later grow into adults. It is sad to note that such harmful cultural practices continue to exist despite several efforts and interventions to abolish them. For instance, the Malawi Constitution, Chapter 22, Sub Section (4) prohibits forced marriages but most of these human rights violations go unreported. 
The reasons why parents and relatives of young girls still hold on to the custom of forcing young girls into marriages could be narrowed down to one or two factors- the need for material gains and  preservation of social status and what is loosely called respect. This occurs when a girl gets pregnant outside wedlock and as such the parents force her to marry the responsible man before the community realizes that she got pregnant outside marriage.


janice said...

woooow you are back we missed your articles faith...nice post,there is need to deal with parents who force children into marriage.

vanessa chitani said...

interesting,we need laws that will be strict for such parents.its high time

Anonymous said...

ALL stake holders in child protection network of both Malawi and Africa at large have a responsibility to put this kind of violation into book.Government machinery must stop early marriage and retrogressive cultural practices.its a danger to modern and civilized society.all are free from cultural atrocities and have unalienable rights.Civil society organizations have a major duty.