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5 Damaging Effects Of Early Marriage On Girls

Child marriage is child abuse.

BY Mercy Kipchilat

Mar 19, 2023, 11:45 AM

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Early marriage or child marriage refers to a marriage in which one or both partners are underage, usually under the age of 18. The practice is more prevalent among girls, and in many cases, it’s usually forced marriage. 

Early marriage is a practice that has long been prevalent in many cultures and regions of the world, and it’s often a result of social or economic pressures.

Although many cultures in Kenya have moved away from early marriages due to modernization and strict laws against it, the number of cases of early marriages in the country is still shockingly high. According to UNICEF, approximately 23% of Kenyan women marry before the age of 18, with 4% marrying before the age of 15.

5 Effects Of Early Marriage.

Early marriage has many negative consequences, especially for young girls who are forced into it. 

Here is a look at some of the negative effects of early marriages on girls and why more work needs to be done to stop this harmful practice.

1. Limited Access To Education.

One of the effects of early marriage is that it significantly limits a girl's access to education as she is often expected to leave school to take on the responsibilities of being a wife and mother. 

As a result, the girl is denied the opportunity to develop skills and pursue a career, which can lead to a cycle of poverty and lack of opportunity. Girls who do not receive an education may be more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

2. Health Risks.

Early marriage can also pose serious health risks to young girls because their bodies are not fully developed or prepared for pregnancy and childbirth.

Young mothers may experience complications during pregnancy or childbirth, resulting in lifelong health issues or even death. 

Additionally, when a girl is married at a young age, she may not know how to keep herself or her children clean and healthy, and this can expose both her and the children to health risks.

3. Increased Risk Of Domestic Violence.

Early marriage can increase the risk of domestic violence, as the girls are often still children and more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. 

They are more likely to be subjected to physical or emotional abuse, as well as sexual violence or marital rape. This can have long-term consequences on their physical and mental health, and it might also affect their ability to develop healthy relationships in the future.

4. Limited Economic Opportunities.

Early marriage can limit a girl's economic opportunities because she may be expected to prioritise the needs of her husband and children over her own career or financial independence.

Additionally, in most early marriages, the girl lacks control over her own life, as well as financial resources to support herself and her family.

5. It Reinforces Gender Inequality.

Another effect of early marriage is that it perpetuates the idea that girls are inferior to boys and should prioritise their roles as wives and mothers over their own aspirations and goals.

This limits the potential of both girls and boys to pursue their dreams and contribute fully to society.

Final Take.

Early marriage violates girls' human rights and is a form of gender-based violence. Girls under the age of 18 are frequently denied the right to choose their own partners, pursue their own interests, and fully participate in society.

Such girls are also exposed to more health risks, especially during pregnancy and childbirth since their bodies are not fully developed. They also don’t get to finish their studies and this negatively impacts their economic and financial stability.