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Should Child marriage be a punishable offence ?

Child Marriage and Education

It would be incongruous to say that getting married would mean an end to the education but shockingly it does so in certain countries and societies particularly for girls. The global data suggests that more than one third of women aged 20-24 were married or in union before they reached 18 years of age as per UNICEF’s report- The State of the World’s Children 2006. Does that mean all those women married early were deprived of education?  Well, the data reflects that girls with higher levels of schooling are less likely to marry as children. In Mozambique, some 60 percent of girls with no education are married by 18, compared to 10 percent of girls with secondary schooling and less than one percent of girls with higher education. This clearly illustrates that child marriage results in poor access to education.  
 
There are numerous reasons that contribute to this association. Generally those who are married early are forced to drop out of school which could be due to family’s denial to invest on girl’s education or due to poor financial status of the family. This cycle of poverty is augmented by not educating the girl child; girls who are married early typically give birth to children at young age and have more than one child.  This is primarily due to inadequate knowledge about contraception or their poor control on its use. Secondly, there is substantial evidence that suggests daughters of young mothers are more likely to underperform in school and subsequently drop out of the school which is beginning of the vicious circle of poverty. Furthermore, lack of education also leads to significantly less economic opportunities in the future which add to the problem. We will certainly agree that, the marriage before 18 years of age has an unconstructive effect on the family as well as the on the future generation of the family.   
 
Additionally, several research studies suggest that there is a positive association between maternal education and child survival. Education can alter women’s understanding on issues related to her own health and influence positive child care practices. Consequently we can conclude that education is an important determinant of health status and women can contribute in improving health care practices within their family. The association of child marriage with health of women can be further explored here.
The consequences of child marriage as mentioned above affect six of the MDGs and thus hamper the overall development of our country:

 

1.    Eradicate extreme hunger and poverty.
2.    Achieve universal primary education.
3.    Promote gender equality and empower women.
4.    Reduce child mortality.
5.    Improve maternal health.
6.    Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases.

 

Further information on the issues related to child marriage and education can be explored here.