Just another WordPress.com site

Posts tagged ‘forced marriage’

Haryana, India – The curse of Women

The land of Jats – Haryana traces its roots to the five thousand years old Mahabharata epic which defines the traditional cry of women empowerment where the mythical Draupti struggled & adjust among her the five husbands of choice. The situation of women in Haryana has remained in the most deplorable state where the womb of humanity feels the fears of superstitious believes where the light of insanity enters the choice of ultras to be born or not. This state has set many excellent examples for the nation & has always raise the national honor in terms of agriculture where green revolution changed the lives of millions, where the world’s best athletes were born & bring home the honors, the community which has remain as inspiration to the nation at large is in real a true culprit of the women backwardness in the region.

Haryana suffers from the lowest sex ration / gender ration in the country where there are 800 females per 1000 males in some places it even goes below then 600 females per 1000 males. Haryana has the highest rates of abortion resulting in the largest cases of infanticide in the country which stood at close to 70000 as per 2001 data rose from the past record of 62000.The practices has lead to acute shortage of marriageable females in the state which has not only contributed in the national girl deficit but also leaded in the loss of births within the past 2 decades caused by abortion & sex selection according to the BBC report of 2006 & Lancet Journal report of 2006.

This has given rise in the bride trafficking where the state has become the center for women trade which has now become so much helpless that now the families find easier to purchase bride for their sons rather finding & spending exorbitant amounts on marriage extravaganza where the average cost of girl is Rs.4000/- depending upon her appearance, age & region. Sonepat district has remained a top buyer & driver of trade the average price of girl ranges between Rs.5000 – Rs.7000.

The problem not only lies here but it has lead to opening of many other criminal activities which are of extreme nature such as the women are treated as the slaves where if the owner gets unsatisfied they sell their property bride to other at negotiable rates. Women are living is such a dismal conditions that their trade has now generated system of supply chain where women are sell, purchase, delivered, resell treated like a mere commodity which if found unsatisfactory can be exchanged or replaced with a better one. The vulnerability & frequency of AIDS in the state where now it is leading the front with greater transparency particularly in younger generation which is being affected most.

Which has made this territory as the state with highest number of rapes annually where women if abandon particularly in village may witness the sexual assault by the whole village or locality. This extremity happens when the owner of the women abandons her or if the husband cum buyer dies early. There have been many cases where women were raped by the whole village repeatedly, harassed or paraded nude in the locality, abducted for a limited period of time.

The cause of trafficking is two-dimensional. One is the demand factor and the other is the vulnerability of the person being victimized, more the demand, and more the crime. The vulnerability of the trafficked victim is another dimension. Vulnerability, as often quoted, is not exactly attributable to poverty. It is a culmination of several factors, including awareness of rights, lack of access to rights, illiteracy, disparities of income , the scope for exploitation of the victim, poor law enforcement, lack of public awareness and the ” culture of silence” to violation of rights of others.

***

Article 23 of the Constitution of India prohibits trafficking in any form. We have special legislations like the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA), 1956, the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000. The law enforcement scenario, seen from the traditional viewpoint, presents a dismal picture. Research conducted by the National Human Rights Commission during 2002-2004 shows that the major issues in law enforcement are as follows:

1. Lack of priority-The law enforcement agencies and justice delivery agencies, for various reasons, accord lowest or nil priority to human trafficking issues.

2.  Insensitivity-The lack of sensitivity to human trafficking is a major challenge. It is more of an attitudinal issue.

3. Victimisation of the victim-More often, the trafficked women have been arrested and penalized for ‘soliciting’.

4 Improper Investigation-trafficking involves a long trail, starting from the source point, covering several transit points before terminating at the destination. But the investigation is more or less confined to the place where the victim is rescued. Victims remain more often unheard and unrepresented.

5. Organised crime perspective is lacking in investigation- HT involves several offenders like recruiters, transporters, traffickers, harbourers, exploiters and conspirators. But often, investigation is limited to those present at the scene of rescue. Human trafficking being an organized crime requires sharing of intelligence and an in-depth investigation into all linkages but this is rarely done.

6. Lack of co-ordination-The response to human trafficking requires co-ordination among the various government departments, like police, public welfare, health, women and child. The gap in co-ordination is a major challenge to the response system.

7. Lack of coordination with NGO’s- The ITPA and labour laws do assign specific role to NGO’s; however there is no institutionalized system of co-ordination between the law enforcement agencies and NGO’s.

8. Lack of Appreciation-Several instances of good work done by the police officers, researchers, NGO’s, etc, in controlling human trafficking can be cited. However such actions are not acknowledged and disseminated; often good news is no news and bad news is good news.

 9. Lack of Emphasis on Rehabilitation- This is a major challenge which leads to not only victimization of victims but also re-trafficking of the rescued person. Despite the fact that several corporate set aside large funds for social responsibility, lack of synergy with the law enforcement agencies and NGO’s has been an impediment in effective dovetailing of such sources for rehabilitating the victim.

With laws in face & in force, the situation still remains as usual as before with no improvement in reality having no grounds of morality to stand as hurdles in the insane traditions & practices of the citizens which even in this century are not civilized enough to be able to give respect & empowerment to their most vulnerable family members of their society. The state of the women is not only confined to the mere infanticide acts but also too many such more odds which she face throughout her life until her death. The society of male dominance has never accepted women as natural being but as the property of their belongings & needs who is being used as the mere commodity for getting the purpose solved with no regards to the crying souls of the wombs. Women in Haryana are subject to slavery & maltreatment by their sole mates in the very sorry state. Females are not allowed to interfere into the family & social matters. They even have no say about any matter which is of their concern. A girl who work or goes for any profession are treated with disrespect & are considered to be very forward.

This is a common practice in the rural areas where women are still fighting for their very existence. Due to continuous exploitation & infanticide on large scale from thousands of years as a tradition has now resulted into a huge deficit in girl population which has affected the entire gender ration of the state & the country too. Where on a national level according to the 2006 survey girl deficit has crossed 500000 mark which is unsuitable to meet the growing demand of brides across the state & in the country at large. Due to this girls are now being forced to marriage at early age, being forced into sex trade.

Due to the shortage of marriageable girls in the state they are being more vulnerable to rapes where now Haryana has surpassed the national crime rate in terms of rapes, abductions, trafficking while positioning itself at the top.

The most heinous of the crimes which are being carried out in a much organized & sophisticated manner under the hidden roofs is when the woman is being in some cases raped by the whole village where even the leaders of the village communities are also involved or order this heinous act to commit by their people. But the most traditional of them all which is still in practice & is being acceptable by the society due to the high level of girl shortage, poverty & illiteracy among the lower & middle income group is that in many families the girl is being forced or sell for marriage to the multiple males of the single family like for example if in a family there are more than one bachelor males & due to the acute shortage of girls in the vicinity & state they marriage a single girl who marries them as their common bride hence fulfilling the purpose of being a wife for all.

This tradition is as old as 5000 years which has roots traced back to Mahabharata era according to Hindu mythology.  This has resulted into a much outcry from the women empowerment bodies & judiciary but due to lack of political will & week enforcement agencies the whole scenario of women in the Jat land is uncertain & in dismal state. The region which is being most affected by this custom is Mewat which also witness a large involvement of Khap panchayat system which is traditional system of judiciary in Haryana who have always been at the fore front of controversy related to their style of functioning, decisions & their legality under the national legal framework.

This system has been responsible for the honor killings in the state & has still leading the stand of carrying out the tradition in this century. The honor killings are being done in relation to the unacceptable marriages which are being made by the absconding couples belonging to the different social group or community. These inter community or runaway marriages are never accepted in the local society & are being subject to the verdict of these khap panchayat which are respected & treated as the final body in the rural heartlands of this state.

With the dual system of constitutional & traditional rights the society of civilized & uncivilized has remained always at the loggerheads with each other making the society more male centric & dominant in the role of the decider who have till now has remained responsible for the women dismal situation in the state which has now facing the challenge of its survival. The day is not far when the Land of Jats will be a mere name in history whose stories will be told to the children for their sleep if the current status of women is not been lifted & treated with due respect in the society.

Child Marriages – Robbing them of their innocence

Throughout the world, the problem of early, forced marriages of children is considered to be a violation of basic human rights. Child marriage is defined by when a child who is below the legal age (usually below the age 15) is married to an adult. Usually it’s almost a Young girl married to an older man. The second form of marriage is an arranged marriage where the parents of the child(ren) and the other person arrange a future marriage. Here, the two individuals who are promised to each other, does not often meet until the wedding ceremony which happens when they both are considered to be of a marriageable age.

Occurrence

It has been estimated that 49 countries around the world has a significant child bride problem, but the numbers are estimated to be higher because of the unregistered and unofficial marriages. UNICEF survey results of 100 countries shows that in developing countries, over than 60 million women aged between 20 and 24 was married before the age of 18. In the countries of Bangladesh, Central African Republic, Chad, Guinea, Mali, and Niger, more than 60% were found to have been married before 18. Despite sanctions on child marriage, more than 100 million children were expected to marry between 2005-2015.

Article 16.1 of United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women of 1979 (CEDAW http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/cedaw.htm)states that;

a) Men and women have the same right to enter into marriage.

b) The same right to freely choose a spouse and enter that marriage with their free and full consent.

Article 16.2 states: The betrothal and marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage. CEDAW has not been ratified by seven UN member-states; the United States, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Nauru, Palau and Tonga.

Although this practice is banned by many countries, there are still many children who are victims of practice. It is combined with culture and has many purposes. Some cultures use child marriage among different tribes, villages and families to secure political and other ties between them to prevent themselves from being assimilated. Other families use child marriage to gain financial ties with wealthier people to ensure their success. Every women and girl has the right to a healthy and just life but when violence of any kind occurs, the international community has the supreme responsibility to respond and transform norms and behavior that condones these human right violations.

How does child marriage affect girl’s futures?

No matter where child marriage occurs, it is regarded as violation towards the children with tiny voices. Parents choose to marry off their daughters early for a number of reasons. Poor families may regard a young girl as an economic burden and her marriage as a necessary survival strategy for her family and some see no value in girls compared to a boy. Others are concerned of their daughters might lose their virginity or get pregnant before marriage. Changing these views requires education and the right to refuse marriage. The parents think that marrying away the daughters protects them from the risk and danger of sexual assault and the husband cares of her as a male guardian.

In the rural villages of these countries many young girls are rarely allowed out of their homes unless it is to work in the fields or to get married. These uneducated girls are often married off at the young age of 11. Some families allow girls who are only 7 years old to marry. It is very unusual for a girl to reach the age of 16 and not be married.

Child marriage by region

Click at the image for a larger picture.

Europe

In France, 11% of girls are married before the age of 18.

Africa

Because of poverty, culture, tradition and conflicts makes child marriages widespread all over Africa. In many tribal systems, the groom has to pay a bride price to the bride’s family in order to marry her. In many parts of Africa, this payment happens in cash, cattle or other valuables but the amount decreases as the girl gets older. That’s why, the family’s wishes to marry the girl as early as possible, most of the times before puberty. Over half of the girls are sent away for marriage as the parents needs the bride price to clothe, feed and educate the rest of the family while a boy can gain education, employment and get married later.

According to many UN related reports made in Sub-Saharan countries, the incident of child marriages under the age of 15 is very high. This has resulted in health problems such as obstetric fistulae, prematurely, stillbirth, sexually transmitted diseases (STD), cervical cancer and malaria. In parts of Ethiopia and Nigeria, 50% of the girls are married as young as the age of 7. In parts of Mali, 39% of the girls are married before the age of 15 and in Niger and Chad; over 70% of girls are married before the age of 18.

Asia and South Asia

India

The status of the woman has been lower than the men for centuries and she has been regarded as the disrespected element of the society in many places. Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh tops list of child marriages by accounting 40% of these incidents a year. A total of 104 cases of child marriage were reported across the country in 2008, which is an 8.3% increase over the previous year’s figure.

The child marriage restraint Act, 1929 was passed during the British rule in pre-partition India that forbade a male younger than 21 and a female younger than 18 to get married. As South-Asia has the highest rate of child marriages in the world, India stands for 40% of the world’s child marriages according to UNICEF’s ”State of the World’s Children -2009”. In an effort to handle this problem, the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh, laws has been made and passed to register all marriages in order to make them valid. According to”National Plan of Action for Children 2005,” (published by the Department of Women and Child development of India) a goal was set out to eliminate child marriages by 2010. As for the child restrain act, a child is a person who, if a male, has not completed 21 years of age and if a female, has not completed 18 years of age. In case of such incident, the parent or guardian concerned may be punished with a simple imprisonment which may extend to three months and a fine. Those who solemnize and give consent to the wedding ceremony face the same punishment. A male above 18 years and below 21, entering into wedlock with a child, shall be punishable with simple imprisonment which may extend to 15 days or with fine which may extend to Rs1,000 or both. A male above 21 years marrying a child shall be punishable with simple imprisonment which may extend to three months and shall also be liable to fine.

Afghanistan

It is believed that between 60 and 80% of marriages are forced marriages and occurs mostly in the rural areas. This deprives the girls from education and isolates them further.

Pakistan

Even though the minimum age for marriage is 18 for men and 16 for girls, child marriages are still widespread and still practiced.

Bangladesh

According to the”State of the World’s Children-2009” report, 63% of all women aged 20-24 were married before the age of 18. The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs has been and still is making progress to increase women and girl’s education and employment opportunities. To reach out to those in rural areas, an attempt to speak with the religious leaders and cooperate with them has shown results and is hoped to decrease the practice.

Middel East

In April 2007, the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) published a new study on child marriage in the world, “New Insights on Preventing Child Marriage: A Global Analysis of Factors and Programs.” The study included the latest ranking of the countries with the world’s highest incidence of child marriage. The chart included 68 countries and the country first on the list was Niger where 76.6% of women were found to have married before age 18, followed by Chad, at 71.5%. The proportion of child brides was above 60% in Bangladesh, Mali and Guinea and above 50% in Nepal, Mozambique, Uganda, Burkina Faso and India. Afghanistan does not appear on the list only because reliable facts are not available from that country. However, the incidence of child marriage in Afghanistan is believed to be quite high.

Yemen

49% of girls are married by the age of 18.

Saudi Arabia

Several human rights groups have documented high number of child marriages in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Saudi clerics have justified marriage of girls as young as the age of 9 and there is no laws defining the minimum age of marriage. The Saudi Ministry of Health on their side issued an official statement expressing its rejection of the marriage of minors, warning of repercussions, including adverse health and psychological effects on young girls. The statement gave details of related reproductive problems, increased incidences of early osteoporosis, in addition to a higher probability of high blood pressure, possibly leading to kidney failure, emergence of distortions of pelvic bones, also accounting for mental illnesses caused by emotional deprivation suffered by young girls after being taken away from parents, such as hysteria, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, personality disorders, and may even lead to addiction as a means of escape, as well as negative effects on children of minors, including delayed mental development.

United States

Laws regarding child marriage vary throughout the United States, though generally children 16 and over may marry with parental consent. Fewer than 16 generally require a court order in addition to the parental consent. The awareness of early forced marriage and sexual abuse of young girls in the United States was increased by the April 2008 rescue of numerous children living on a ranch owned by a polygamist sect in Texas. Children can also be married under the age of 18 with permission from their parents. In Texas, Alabama, South Carolina and Utah, girls can marry at the age of 14, in New Hampshire at 13, in Massachusetts and Kansas, as early as 12.

Until 2008, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints practiced child marriage through the concept ‘spiritual (religious only) marriages,’ as soon as girls are ready to bear children, as part of its polygamy practice and laws have raised the age of legal marriage in response to criticism of the practice. In 2008, the Church changed its policy in the United States to no longer marry individuals younger than the local legal age as the Church leader Warren Jeffs was convicted of being an accomplice to statutory rape of a minor due to arranging a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and a 19-year-old man in 2007. The state of Texas removed all 468 children from the ranch and placed them into temporary state custody. FLDS denied the charges. The charges were eventually dropped in court as there was no solid evidence in support of this, and it was determined that the state entered the ranch illegally.

South America

It is estimated that 29% of women aged between 15-24 were married before the age of 18 in Latin America and the Caribbean with Guatemala and El Salvador with the highest rates at 41% and 38%.

According to a report issued by the United Nations, these early marriage unions violate the basic human rights of these girls by putting them into a life of isolation, service, lack of education, health problems, and abuse. The UNICEF paper also states: “UNICEF believes that, because marriage under the age of 18 may threaten a child’s human rights (including the right to education, leisure, good health, freedom of expression, and freedom from discrimination), the best way to ensure the protection of children’s rights is to set a minimum age limit of 18 for marriage.

Negative effects on child marriages

Poverty

Girls living in the poorest 20% of households are more likely to get married at an early age than those living in the wealthiest 20%.

Education

Women with primary education are significantly less likely to be married or in union as children than those who received no education. In Zimbabwe for example, 48% of women who had attended primary school had been married by the age of 18, compared to 87% of those who had not attended school. Furthermore, once entering a marriage or union, women are much less likely to receive further education or get divorce.

Health

Premature pregnancies are common with young brides, and these cause higher rates of maternal and infant mortality.

Since many married adolescents are pulled out of school at an early age, they may be unfamiliar with basic reproductive health issues. Despite the large number of married girls, policies and programs often fail to address their vulnerability to HIV, sexual transmitted diseases (STD) or other reproductive health needs. Furthermore, while parents may see early marriage as a way to help keep their daughters from becoming infected with HIV, data indicates that 17-22 percent of 15-19 year old girls in Sub-Saharan Africa are living with HIV/AIDS as opposed to 3-7% for their male counterparts.

Poor health, early death and lack of education lead the list of major problems related to child marriages. Child brides have a double pregnancy death rate rather than women in their 20s because of their young age. Besides from having children in young age, girls are also exposed for damages and rupture in their reproductive organs and their children will end up being sicker and weaker ending in an early death. These young girls are also at an increased risk of chronic anemia and obesity. Other problems are listed as:

  • Limited social support due to social isolation.
  • Limited educational opportunities or no schooling options.
  • Intense pressure to become pregnant.
  • An increased risk of maternal and infant mortality.
  • Restricted freedom of movement and social mobility.
  • Early marriage that creates a lifetime of poverty
  • Statistically, child brides have a higher risk of becoming victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse and murder.

Abuse

Abuse is common in child marriages. Women who get married in a young age are more likely to be beaten or threatened, and more likely to believe that a husband might sometimes be justified in beating his wife. Some women end up being murdered as well for different reasons. In addition, children who refuse to marry or who choose a marriage partner against the wishes of their parents are often punished or even killed by their families in so-called ‘honour’ killings.

Tag Cloud