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Harmful practices to the female body; part 1 Female Genital Mutilation

“Mama tied a blindfold over my eyes. The next thing I felt my flesh was being cut away. I heard the blade sawing back and forth through my skin. The pain between my legs was so intense I wished I would die.” –Waris Dirie, UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador and spokesperson on FGM

1. What is FGM?

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has been defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” Most of the victims live in African countries, some in the Middle East and Asian countries and it is increasing in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada.

FGM is usually performed by an older experienced woman with no medical training. In primitive areas, anaesthetics and antiseptic treatment is not used and the tools consist of knives, scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass and razor blades. A mixture of herbs is placed on the wound to tighten the vagina and stop the bleeding. The age of the girls varies from infants to girls to the age of 10 depending on the community and family.

It is extreme form of discrimination against women and performed on innocent children that are not able to defend themselves. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.

2. 4 types of FGM

According to WHO;

a)     Excision (removal) of the clitoral hood with or without removal of part or all of the clitoris. Occurs in 85% of the FGM.

b)     Removal of the clitoris together with part or all of the labia minora. Occurs in 85% of the FGM.

c)      Removal of part or all of the external genitalia (clitoris, labia minora, and labia majora) and stitching and/or narrowing of the vaginal opening leaving a small hole for urine and menstrual flow. Occurs in Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, parts of Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal.

d)     All other operations of the female genitalia.

3. History of Female Circumcision

Female circumcision, also known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is not a recent phenomenon as it has been dated back as far as to 2nd century BC when a geographer, Agatharchides of Cridus wrote about the subject that occurred among tribes residing on the western coast of the Red Sea (today’s Egypt). Based on the current areas practicing FGM, it seems as the tradition has originated from Egypt and spread. Others believe that the custom was rooted in the kingdom of the Pharaohs.

As Islam rose throughout the region, Egyptians raided territories in the south and exported Sudanic slaves. Female slaves were sold at a higher price if they were “sewn up” as they became unable to give birth. After many converting to Islam, this practice was abolished as Islam prohibits Muslims from harming their body and enslaving others.

Today this primitive tradition has reached the coasts of America, Europe, Australia and Canada. Numbers from Amnesty International estimates that 135 million women have experienced FGM and that between 2-3 million girls and infants undergoes this practice every year.  In Africa alone it is about 92 million girls who has undergone FGM.

4. Medical consequence of FGM

FGM have absolutely no health benefits for the girls except doing harm and causing extreme pain. As the healthy genital tissue is being removed, the body cannot function in a natural way. Since this procedure is being practiced by people who have no medical training and without using any necessary anesthetic or sterilization, the FGM can lead to death by shock from bleeding or infections by the unsterilized tools. The first sexual intercourse will be extremely painful who will be needed to be opened and this is being performed by the partner with a knife. Besides bleeding there are several short and long term complications that these girls have to deal with and I have listed them shortly.

Depending on the degree of mutilation, short term health problems caused by FGM;

  1. Severe pain and shock
  2. Bacterial infection
  3. Urine retention
  4. Open sores injury to adjacent tissues
  5. Immediate fatal haemorrhaging (bleeding)
  6. Extreme pain as girls are cut without being numbed and the worst pain occurs the next day when the girls have to urinate
  7. Trauma as girls are forced and held down by several women

Long-term implications;

  1. Extensive damage of the external reproductive system
  2. Uterus, vaginal and pelvic infections
  3. Cysts and neuromas
  4. Increased risk of Vesico Vaginal Fistula
  5. Complications in pregnancy and child birth
  6. Psychological damage
  7. Sexual dysfunction
  8. Difficulties in menstruation
  9. Recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections
  10. Infertility
  11. The need for later surgeries such as to be cut open to allow childbirth and sexual intercourse after marriage. Sometimes it is also stitched again several times after childbirth.
  12. Problems urinating as girls are left with a small opening. This can slow or strain the normal flow of urine and lead to infections
  13. Gynecological health problems as they are not able to pass all of their menstrual blood out and have infections over and over again.
  14. Increased risk of Sexually Transmitted Diseases/Infections (STD/STI) including HIV as the procedure is being performed in unclean conditions
  15. Psychological and emotional stress. A study by Pharos, a Dutch group that gathered health care information of refugees and migrants revealed in February 2010 that majority of these women suffered from stress, anxiety and was aggressive. They were also most likely to have relational problems or fear for relations. According to the study, it is believed that an estimate of 50 girls is being genitally mutilated every year in the Netherlands.

5. Where is FGM practiced?

Southeast Asia; Indonesia, Malaysia,

Central Asia; Tajikistan

Eastern Europe; Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia

Middle East; Yemen, UAE, turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Palestinian territories, Pakistan, Oman, Jordan, Iraq and Kurdistan, Iran,

Africa; Zimbabwe, Zaire, Uganda, Togo, Tanzania, South Africa, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, republic of Congo, Nigeria, Niger, Mozambique, Mauritania, Mali, Malawi, Libya, Liberia, Kenya, guinea-Bissau, guinea, Ghana, Gambia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Egypt, Djibouti, democratic republic of the Congo, cote d’ivoire, Comoros, Chad, central African republic, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Benin, Algeria

The majority of cases of FGM are carried out in 28 African countries. In some countries, (e.g. Egypt, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan), prevalence rates can be as high as 98 per cent. In other countries, such as Nigeria, Kenya, Togo and Senegal, the prevalence rates vary between 20 and 50 per cent. It is more accurate however, to view FGM as being practised by specific ethnic groups, rather than by a whole country, as communities practising FGM straddle national boundaries. FGM takes place in parts of the Middle East, i.e. in Yemen, Oman, Iraqi Kurdistan, amongst some Bedouin women in Israel, and was also practised by the Ethiopian Jews, and it is unclear whether they continue with the practice now that they are settled in Israel. FGM is also practised among Bohra Muslim populations in parts of India and Pakistan, and amongst Muslim populations in Malaysia and Indonesia.

6. Religion or culture?

Although FGM happens in countries with Muslim majority, and people think that it is associated with Islam, FGM is not supported by any religion and condemned by many religious leaders.

In fact FGM is a pre-Islamic tradition and since Islam prohibits humans from harming and mutilating their body, therefore FGM is forbidden in Islam. In Ethiopia, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Senegal, Benin, and Ghana, Muslim population groups are more likely to practice FGC than Christian groups but in Nigeria, Tanzania, and Niger, the prevalence is greater among Christian groups.

Today FGM is a mixture of cultural, religious and social factors. For instance, the social pressure to perform FGM because others in the same community do it keeps the practice strong. As from the religious view, the parents thinks that FGM is necessary to raise the daughter properly and make sure that she is a virgin until she is married even though no religious scripture supports this. It is motivated by the thought of proper sexual behavior.

7. Reasons and justification

  1. custom and tradition
  2. religion; in the mistaken belief that it is a religious requirement
  3. preservation of virginity/chastity
  4. social acceptance, especially for marriage
  5. hygiene and cleanliness
  6. increasing sexual pleasure for the male
  7. family honour
  8. a sense of belonging to the group and conversely the fear of social exclusion
  9. enhancing fertility

8. What can be done to prevent and abolish FGM?

Each community should arrange meetings where they discuss, talk and consider opinions about FGM. Here it would be important to allow the elder generation to speak with the young. It is important to spread out and explain about the harsh health problems FGM causes.

Next important thing is education. Education is the key to everything. As we can see, this is happening in areas where most people is illiterate or doesn’t have the possibility to go to school. The generations repeat themselves and the circle is hard to break. Another important thing would be that Islamic scholars and other religious leaders should change the perception about FGM as people listen to them.

Every country and community should work towards changing the attitude as women feels they are being disloyal to their culture for not choosing FGM. This pressure can change if doctors and other health care workers would talk with women about the dangers of FGC and offer other options that don’t involve cutting. Some human rights advocates also suggest that men could help reduce the practice of FGC by openly marrying uncut women. Many human rights organizations are also calling on religious leaders to openly confirm that their religions do not require women to have FGC.

Last, if the countries establish strict laws and investigate cases regarding FGM, then it will have some effect but it will not be enough to abolish it as 18 African countries has laws or decrees against FGM. Even countries with the highest rates of FGM have recently openly noted the need for banning this practice. Fines and jail sentences are typically minor, but most view any sanctions against FGC as a good start.

It is important that everyone is aware of this heinous practice that mutilates the female body. It is hard to understand how parents can perform this on their infant babies who are not able to defend themselves. Every country should implement various strategies to eliminate FGM and it starts with education and communication.

Surrogacy – Womb for rent

What is surrogacy

Many couples consider children as a very important part of their life and for those who have difficulty conceiving one can be a hard obstacle to tackle. Some couples do whatever they can such as various treatments, acupuncture, medicine treatment and IVF treatments while others feels that the pressure becomes too hard and they separate. Infertility primarily refers to the biological inability of a person to contribute to conception. Infertility may also refer to the state of a woman who is unable to carry a pregnancy to full term. There are many biological causes of infertility, some which may be bypassed with medical intervention.

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a process by which egg cells are fertilized by sperm outside the body, in vitro. IVF is a major treatment in infertility when other methods of assisted reproductive technology have failed. The process involves hormonally controlling the ovulatory process, removing ova (eggs) from the woman’s ovaries and letting sperm fertilize them in a fluid medium. The fertilized egg (zygote) is then transferred to the patient’s uterus with the intent to establish a successful pregnancy. Robert G. Edwards, the doctor who developed the treatment, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2010.

Some people decide to take the step to adopt a child but the negative aspects of this are that most adoptions take very long time. It’s a paradox if we think of the number of orphan children around the world and that those who apply for adoption have to wait for many years in line before they can add a new family member to their household. Therefore lately there is a rising use of surrogate mothers around the world. Surrogacy was first heard mostly in the media where Hollywood actors and actresses used but now, common people tend to use this method.

Surrogacy can be defined as an arrangement where a woman carries and delivers a baby for another person or a couple. This woman may be the genetic mother of this child (traditional surrogacy) or she may carry the pregnancy to deliver after having an embryo which she has no genetic relationship to (gestational surrogacy). If the pregnant woman receives compensation for carrying and delivering the baby besides medical and other expenses, it is called commercial surrogacy; otherwise the arrangement is called altruistic surrogacy.

The social parents, those that intend to raise the child arrange a surrogate pregnancy because of female infertility, or other medical issues which may make the pregnancy or delivery impossible, risky or otherwise undesirable. The social mother could also be fertile and healthy, and prefer the convenience of someone else undergoing pregnancy, labor, and delivery for her. The intended parent could also be a single man or woman wishing to have his/her own biological child and the legality of surrogacy arrangements vary widely between jurisdictions.

Usually, though, the etiquette is that the biological parents will provide the surrogate mother with any necessities the surrogate needs in the pregnancy such as providing transportation to and from doctor’s appointments; covering the costs of doctor visits, medications, procedures, hospital stay, and delivery fees (emergency and nonemergency) if medical insurance is not available by the surrogate; providing maternal clothing for the surrogate; if the surrogate was working before but quit to do the surrogacy, the biological parents will cover life necessities such as food, bills and etc.

INDIA: New regulation for India’s booming surrogate mother industry

Until recently, the 350 clinics offering surrogate mother services to the hundreds of medical tourists coming to India every week have been unregulated. But legal cases in India and other countries mean that this profitable free-for-all will be replaced by regulated agencies being forced to comply with national and international law. That may soon change. A draft bill to direct assisted reproductive technology (ART) is likely to be introduced this year in Parliament. India’s Supreme Court has demanded urgent new legislation to regulate one of India’s fastest-growing industries as they have become the world capital of outsourced pregnancies, where surrogates are implanted with foreign embryos and paid to carry the resultant babies to term. In 2002, the country legalized commercial surrogacy in an effort to promote medical tourism and Indian surrogate mothers are considered as available and cheap. In 2002 the country legalized commercial surrogacy in an effort to promote medical tourism; a sector the Confederation of Indian Industry predicts will generate $2.3 billion annually by 2012.

Many of the couples using India are from countries where surrogacy is either illegal or unaffordable. Surrogacy costs $12,000 to $20,000 per birth in India, compared to $70,000 to $100,000 in the USA. Indian surrogates are usually paid between 5,000 to $ 7,000 for their services, which is more than many of them would be able to earn after years of work. In some Indian clinics surrogates are recruited from rural villages, with most recruits being poor and illiterate. Surrogacy recruits are also brought to the clinics where they are required to stay in the clinic’s living quarters in a guarded dormitory-like setting for the entire pregnancy where they are being taking care of in case of complications.

There have been several cases in which babies born from Indian surrogacy arrangements were stateless, in which neither India nor the parents’ home countries recognized the babies’ citizenship. “We can only wish them good luck,” India’s Supreme Court told local media. Japan considers the woman who gives birth to a baby, the surrogate, to be the baby’s mother just like Norway does. Until recently, two-year-old twin toddlers were stateless and stranded in India. Their parents are German nationals, but the woman to whom the babies were born is an Indian surrogate. The boys were refused German passports because the country does not recognize surrogacy as a legitimate means of parenthood. And India does not confer citizenship on surrogate-born children conceived by foreigners. Only after a long legal battle did Germany allow the boys German passports.

The new proposed government bill bans in-vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics from brokering surrogacy transactions. It also calls for the establishment of an ART bank that will be responsible for locating surrogate mothers, as well as reproductive donors and fertility clinics will only come into contact with surrogates on the operating table but clinics see this as unworkable as they want to perform medical and background checks. But the new rules seek to protect surrogate mothers with freedom in negotiating their fee and mandatory health insurance from the couple or single employing them. The legislation will only allow a woman to act as a surrogate up to five times, less if she has her own children, and will impose a 35-year age limit. At the same time, the new legislation will also require and make sure that the international couple’s home country guarantees the unborn infant citizenship before a surrogacy can begin. If this stipulation becomes law it could kill the industry as few countries will or legally could guarantee citizenship before birth. Countries accepting surrogate-born children typically rely on DNA tests done post-delivery to determine the parentage of the baby.

How will the legislation affect Indian clinics?

Dr. Patel chooses among the women who appear at the clinic, at least three a day, hoping to hire out their wombs and she pairs the surrogates with infertile couples, catering to an increasingly international clientele from 13 foreign couples in 2006 to 85 in 2009. The entire process costs customers around $23,000 less than 1/5 of the going rate in the U.S. of which the surrogate mother usually receives about $7,500 in installments. Dr. Patel implants the women with embryos, using specimens from sperm or egg donors if necessary. Once pregnant, the surrogates are housed onsite, in a dormitory that was once a local tax office, so that they can be supervised until delivery. But under the new legislation, Patel will be permitted to supervise nothing but surgery.

Surrogate mothers waiting for check up

The proposed bill bans in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics from brokering surrogacy transactions. It also emphasizes for the establishment of an “ART bank” that will be responsible for locating surrogate mothers as well as reproductive donors. Fertility clinics will only come into contact with surrogates on the operating table and the reason for this is to create a safe distance between the clinic and the surrogate to avoid unethical practices according to Dr. R.S. Sharma, deputy director general of the ICMR and member-secretary of the bill’s drafting committee. “IVF clinics should only be concerning themselves with science.”

Dr Patel does not agree with the legislation maintains that ART banks will not have enough experience to determine whether a woman is fit for surrogacy. “The trust the clients and surrogate mothers have with me is what makes the whole thing secure and safe. And at the end, when they want to buy a house or a piece of land for farming, we get them the best deal. With this bill, we will not know what they are going to do with such a big amount of money,” she says.

Stateless children

During nine months, Kari Ann Volden, a Norwegian woman have been battling against the Norwegian government to adopt the twins Adrian and Michael, who was born from a surrogate mother in India January 24, 2010. According to Norwegian rule, the woman who gives birth to the child is the legal mother.

Family Minister Audun Lysbakken promised in May 2010 that the Ministry should take into account the children and make a moral exception in the case even if Kari Ann Volden was not considered to be the mother of the children but when it emerged that she had lied about the eggs being hers the application then was rejected. Therefore she is now caught in India with the two young boys hoping that her adoption application still will be granted.

According to the Norwegian authorities, the children are Indian government’s responsibility. But Indian authorities claim that the children are Norwegian and the twins are therefore now stateless. Norwegian government justifies the refusal on the basis of international conventions and Norwegian law to prevent the purchase and sale of children. This is the first time that such a case is dealt with in Norway. Norway has ratified the Convention on Human Rights, which states that children’s best interests will be emphasized, even when it comes to adoption across national borders. And that’s what this case is all about children’s best interests, not their biological connection.

After the birth of the two boys, the authorities demanded a DNA test to finish up the adoption process, and Volden admitted then that both eggs and sperm was donated and the Norwegian adoption authorities put their foot down for the adoption of the two twins. Volden is sorry that she had told the adoption authorities that the eggs were hers but says she said it to protect the boys and herself. “I did not think that the case would receive such attention. I thought we would be in India for seven weeks, but now we have been here for seven months,” she said.

Labor Party politician has followed the case with great interest for a long period. The case created great interest among the people, expressed both through the Facebook support group and fundraising since Volden is suffering economically. Much indicated that the case was about to resolve it when the family minister Audun Lysbakken opened to domestic adoption, but it was paradoxically this opportunity that led to incorrect information was revealed.

Indian surrogate mother: “We do it for money”

Regina A. Singh has never met the Norwegian father who applied for surrogacy alone and she thinks it’s strange to carry out a child who should not have a mother. “It would never have happened in India. But I do not think about it. This is not my baby,” Regina says. She is 23 years old and has two children from before herself. This is her first time as a surrogate mother. “We needed the money. First, my husband refused, but I managed to persuade him,” she said. For the job, she gets 350,000 rupees, around $7,740 and that is a fortune for the family of four, which until now have lived by the husband’s income of about $ 900 a month. But Regina has chosen to keep the matter secret from the in-laws as they would never understand. In the tradition-bound India, it is often associated with shame to rent out her womb for others especially in rural areas; surrogacy is combined with social stigma, and is seen as dirty and immoral.

Udmala Mansoya (30) and Hema Rawal (34) admittes its hard work but they do it for the money. Both have undergone multiple pregnancies earlier but this is completely different. Both agree that once is enough for them as a surrogate mother. Udmala will use the money to buy a house, while Hema will ensure that her own three children receive education, but none of them get the money in hand, they are managed for them by Akanksha Clinic. “Many of the women can not read or write, so we think it is best that we look after their money for them,” says clinic administrator Himesh Patel who helps the women with house and land purchase. If something were to happen during pregnancy or birth the women have little protection as Indian insurance companies refuse to insure pregnant women, and women are therefore at the mercy of their employers.”We did not know this. But we hope it goes well,” says Hema and Udmala.

Here are a list of countries that performs surrogacy and information about the process. http://www.surrogate-mother.ru/eng/surrogacy/surrogacy_different_countries.html

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.

Children of Somalia

Somalia, one of the harshest places on earth has given huge challenges to its people in terms of simple survival. The legacy of a nomadic life way of life and a civil conflict that has shattered social structures and provided poverty giving Somali children of surviving to adulthood are among the lowest of children in the world. The odds of the child’s mother dying during pregnancy or in childbirth are also extremely high.

 

Diarrheas disease-related hydration, respiratory infections and malaria are the main killers of infants and young children. Cholera is endemic in Somalia, with the threat of outbreaks recurring annually during the season from December to May. The major underlying causes of diarrhea are the lack of access to safe water, and poor food and domestic hygiene. Malnutrition is a chronic problem in all areas, and becomes acute when areas are struck by drought or flood, or where localized conflicts flare up. These and other birth-related problems are a further cause of many infant deaths, while measles and its complications result in widespread illness. The reason for this is poor nutrition and transmission is rapid where living conditions is crowded, resulting in a high death rate.

Somalia is among countries with the highest incidence of tuberculosis in the world. Overcrowded conditions in camps where many displaced people are living, general lack of treatment facilitates, poor quality drugs and malnutrition keeps tuberculosis as one of the country’s main killer disease. Lack of access to safe water is a striking feature in almost all parts of Somalia. Probably less than 1 in every 3 households uses an improved drinking water source. A result of erratic rainfall patterns which are responsible for both droughts and floods, and destruction of water supply installations during civil war.

Only 37% of the population of Somalia has access to adequate sanitation. Poor hygiene and environmental sanitation are major causes of diseases such as cholera among children and women. The impact of poor environmental sanitation is felt in the cities, towns, large villages and other places where people are living in close proximity to each other with waste disposal adjacent to dwellings. Lack of garbage collection facilities is another factor affecting the urban environment and polluting water sources.

Primary school years Somalia is a country where schooling is available to very few children. A child of primary school age has only about a 1 in 5 chance of attending school. As a result of the collapse of the centrally government in 1991 and the ensuing long years of conflict, schools where destroyed and abandoned. Only now is rehabilitation of the damaged building beginning to take place. Most schools are financed from fees or other forms support from parents and communities, with some input from external agencies. For a girl child in Somalia, the prospects of attending school are even poorer. Result of previous school surveys reflects the same pattern. The high dropout rates of girls in most areas are due to a combination of traditional attitudes.

Adolescence Among the youth many have known nothing but conflict and hardship for most of their lives. Many children and youth have suffered displacement and have observed, experienced and sometimes participated in violence. A majority have never experienced normal, stabile social relationships and systems of governance. Lack of optimism about the possibilities the future holds for them is common among this group. There are growing categories of vulnerable children who are in need of special care and protection including:

  1. Those that have been displaced within the country, such as people driven from their homes by conflict, drought, floods or other factors.
  2. Children from minority groups, the very poor or orphans.
  3. Children living on the streets, militia children and children on conflict with the law.

Girls are specially disadvantaged in most of these categories. Gender discrimination is deeply rooted in the traditional sociocultural structures of Somali society and is a formidable barrier to women’s participation in decision-making and access to resources.

UNICEF officials are concerned that the current situation in Somalia will have lasting consequences for Somali society. Children continue to bear the brunt of the conflict, and many lack access to even the most basic services. Fighting has killed and injured numerous children. Many are recruited into armed conflict. In additional to the traumas of conflict, children in Somalia faces a myriad of other challenges, from education to health sanitation concern. Safe water is also scarce. Only 29% of the population has access to safe water, and this is being aggravated by droughts. Nutrition continues to be a critical concern, with 1 in 5 children acutely malnourished, and 1 in 20 severely malnourished on the risk of death without proper treatment.

July 22, 2010; According to USAID, flooding and limited access to sanitation facilities and safe drinking water has continued to increase the spread of waterborne diseases in the country. According to health officials, there has also been increased incidence of acute watery diarrhea (AWD) from reports made in Banadir Hospital in Mogadishu about 100 AWD cases from Banadir hospital, including 90 cases in children under five years of age and three related deaths, representing a 24% increase compared to the number of cases reported during the the previous month. Between January and May, health officials reported more than 25,000 AWD cases and 51 deaths countrywide, including approximately 18,000 cases in children under five years of age and 48 related deaths.

2011; The humanitarian community has improved access to sanitation facilities for more than 200,000 conflict-affected individuals and conducted hygiene promotion activities for more than 1 million people in 2010 but it is not enough for the war-stricken country as the ongoing political instability has prevented most of the aid agencies from delivering much of the food and clean water. Almost 6 million people have been hit hard by the drought in the country and 1 in 6 children have become malnourished says UN reports. Juba has the greatest proportion of acutely malnourished children – at 30% probably the highest rate anywhere in the world. This is due mainly to a lack of clean water, leading to diarrhoea, and reduced access to milk, as families move their livestock ever further away in search of pasture. Across southern Somalia, one in four children is acutely malnourished. The shattered political system does also complicate the matter as the terrorist group Al-Shabaab has banned more than 20 international relief agencies even when most of the aid offices are in the capital, they do see it as a big challenge to deliver to those in controlled districts.

Easy way to check your health

Good health is the key for a long and happy life, but how often do we go to the doctor and check our body from top to toe? Luckily for us, there are a few steps we can do ourselves at home.

1. Check your resting heart rate.

Resting heart rate indicates how effectively your heart is. When you exercise and get in better physical shape, your heart will be ever more efficient, pumping more blood around the body with each heartbeat. What you coach at the endurance exercise, oxygen uptake, endurance, and it is primarily the heart’s stroke volume – how much blood the heart pumps out per stroke – that increases and improves maximal oxygen uptake or improved condition. Resting heart rate is reduced when stroke volume increases; therefore, resting heart rate is an indication of fitness. An average heart beats about 60-80 beats each minute when the body is at rest.

How to test:
When you wake up in the morning before you stand up from bed, check your resting heart rate by placing the forefinger and middle finger lightly over the main arteries of the wrist or neck artery, which is about 2.5 cm from the trachea, on each side of the neck. Count your strokes in 15 seconds and multiply the number by four to get the number of beats per minute.
You can also test by using a heart rate monitor.

  • 30-40 beats per minute: Very well trained, at the elite level athlete.
  • 40-50 beats per minute: You are very healthy and well trained.
  • 50-60 beats per minute: Wanted: people usually have a resting pulse below 60, then you’re doing well.

65 + beats per minute: 60-70 beats per minute is considered normal. Is resting heart rate 75 or higher, then that is a sign of increased risk of heart attack, according to a Norwegian study. In other words, there is good reason to aim to reduce the resting heart rate with exercise. Be aware that some medications / drugs will affect heart rate. Some are born with naturally high resting heart rate even if the shape is good.

2. Check your eyes

The eyes can give you an indication of your cholesterol level. White matting around the edge of the iris of the eye could be a sign that the cholesterol is too high. High levels of cholesterol in the blood increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, like heart attacks

How to check your eyes:

Look at the iris of your eyes in a mirror. Is there white matting around the edge of the iris of the eye or a little inside? If so, this may be a sign of high cholesterol. Go to the doctor and take a blood test, and make sure your diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and oats, which lower the cholesterol.

3. The secret is in the waist measurement, the bigger the waist, the higher the risk for heart diseases.

Measurement of the waist:

Measure around your stomach between the lower rib and iliac crest while standing without any clothes on. It is important that you relax, do not hold your breath and breathing in the abdomen or exhale and balusters on the stomach.

* Women should be aware if the waistline is about 80 cm, and should take some measures if the waistline is about 88 cm or more.
* Men should be aware if the waistline is about 94 cm, and should do something if the waistline is about 102 cm or more.

A European study found that the risk of premature death is about twice as large for people with a lot of fat around the waist (more than 120 cm for men and more than 100 cm for women), compared with those with a narrow waist (smaller than 80 cm for men and less than 65 cm for women). The researchers behind the study believe the increased risk of premature death due to abdominal fat secretes substances and hormones that can help you develop chronic diseases, especially heart disease and cancer.

4. Check your responsiveness
How fast do you manage to grab something that is falling?

How to test?

Get somebody to hold a 30 cm long stick in front of you. The person shall keep the stick at the end where it says 30 cm, and the stick should be facing down. Place your hand on a level with 0-marked, with the thumb and index finger ready to intervene. Without warning, your friend will drop the ruler. You should grab it as quickly as you can, before it goes to the floor. Then, note the length of your finger where you grabbed the ruler.
Under 5 cm: Great
Under 10 cm: Average
Between 10 0g 29 cm: Are you sure that you get enough exercise and rest?
Boom: You can have low levels of potassium and need to exercise more.

5. Check your flexibility. One side of the body may be softer than the other.

To test your flexibility:
Stand with your right arm straight up in the air, bend your elbow so your hand hangs behind you. Raise your left arm up behind his back, as if to scratch between the shoulder blades, and try to obtain the other hand, as if you shake hands on yourself behind your back. Repeat on other side. Can you grasp your hands, you are very smooth. To touch the fingertips is the next best. By practicing this, you can improve your flexibility. It is normal to be softer on one side.

6. Check your brain

Your brain needs exercise just as much as the body to work and to strengthen your memory.

To test the brain:
Count backward from 100 for seven figures at a time (100 – 93 – 86 and so on) and try to get as low as you can without stopping. If you come down to 65 is considered a good result. To keep your mind focused, try to solve crosswords daily or read books as often as you can.

Note: These advices are just indicators and may not tell you how your health is 100%, though the best thing is to seek a professional doctor.

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