AT WHAT COST? the cost of child marriage

By Liz Busisa

Every day, more than 41,000 girls marry while they are still children, without having fully matured physically, emotionally, mentally and psychologically to become wives and mothers. Child marriage can be defined a union of persons who are below the age of 18 years; either one or both parties should be below the age of 18. This kind of union tends to affect the child in various ways including the risk of having poor health, poverty, dropping out of school, having more children in their lifetimes, jut to mention a few. These children also become backward as compared to their peers in terms of employment levels, and are more likely to experience intimate partner violence.

In addition, child marriage adversely affects the aspect of equality because the girls have little or no decision making abilities and have restricted physical mobility. They basically become prisoners of their older husbands because they face more abuse which grossly violates their rights to education, good health, to live free from violence and inhuman treatment, equality and non-discrimination. These makes them disempowered and greatly affect the economy of a country.

In light of all these effects on child marriage, efforts made towards ending it are significant in alleviating poverty and promoting economic development. Ending child marriage may improve health at both the individual and population levels, increase productivity and enhance the opportunity of a country to realize the gains in its economic growth that can result in declining birth rates and a shift in the demographic dividend.

This is why the economic impact of child marriage is a collaborative effort by the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW) and the World Bank was developed. The international community is increasingly aware of the negative impacts of child marriage. Ending this problem is now a part of the Sustainable Development Goals. However, the investments to end child marriage across the globe remain limited; this limitation is in terms of implementation programs and resources that have been employed to end the practice.

The study on the economic impacts of child marriage demonstrates the negative impacts of the practice and their associated economic costs. The study focuses on key areas of impact which include: fertility and population growth; health nutrition and violence; educational attainment and learning; participation, decision making and investments; and participation in the labour force and type of work. This shows that the costs of child marriage are very high and therefore investing to end child marriage is not only the right thing to do, but also makes sense economically.

child marriage

What are these negative impacts of child marriage? According to the report, child marriages affect the economy of the child bride and the household. High illiteracy levels, poverty, poor health are among the economic costs that child brides incur and because they bear children at an early age, their births are more difficult, dangerous and more complicated. There is then the risk of high maternity and child mortality and morbidity rates as a result of early births, a fact that brings about a wide range of economic costs on individual and household levels.

While the effects of child marriages are acutely felt at the individual level, child marriage is also likely to have far reaching consequences at the national and international levels. How? The consequences are in the form of of lost earnings and transmission of poverty from one generation to another. This means that the effect spreads across the children, families, communities and the society at large.

Governments need to address child marriage very critically because it costs them more when dealing with the effects aforementioned. Children need to be allowed to be children and to fully enjoy their childhood. They need to play, socialize and be given the opportunity to grow into maturity. They need to fully develop mentally, intellectually, physically, emotionally and psychologically for adulthood. They need to get educated and be able to become entrepreneurs or get employed and plan for their families. Eradicating poverty which is the first SDG will be positively affected and countries will not have their economies dwindle in an effort to dealing with child marriage.

It is unequivocal of the impacts of child marriage on an economy. Will our children continue to have their rights infringed upon? At what cost? Advocates for children’s rights will no longer stay aloof of this scourge upon the children. Something must be done and done fast.

Liz Busisa is a Child and Legal Policy reporter at Mtoto News

Mtoto News is an online platform of news, information and resources that aims at making significant change in the lives of children by making them visible. Read  or follow us on twitter and Facebook @mtotonews

Photo of credits

Child not Bride




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