News and Stories - Girls Rights - 22nd November 2017

Let’s talk about child marriage

Let’s talk about child marriage

Right now in Tanzania young people are coming together to change the legal age of marriage for girls from 14 to 18. We’re incredibly proud to be standing with them, and you can too! 

Let’s talk about child marriage. Encouragingly, it’s an issue that triggers incredible public action, with thousands of Australians quick to mobilise and say no: child marriage is unacceptable. As a result, we’ve been able to add our voices to those all over the globe to influence change in countries with high rates of child marriage. And that’s fantastic, because child marriage strips girls of their choices, their bodies and their futures.

But maybe we need to dig a little deeper.

This is important: child marriage isn’t about just one culture or religion or group of people. It cuts across countries, cultures, religions and backgrounds.

We’re working with young people advocating to change the law in Tanzania and raise the legal age of marriage for girls from 14 to 18. Tanzania is made up of 120 ethnic groups. Roughly a third of the population is Muslim while another third is Christian.

Last year we ran a similar campaign in Malawi where the predominant religion is Christianity followed by Islam.

While some may attribute child marriage to religion, that’s not what it’s about.

The main drivers behind child marriage are gender inequality, poverty, cultural norms and a lack of education.

That means that ending child marriage is complicated, and tackling those root causes is key to ending it. But it also means that it’s possible in a way that it wouldn’t be if it could be attributed to an entire race or religion.

Historically, child marriage was fairly common all over the world, especially given we didn’t live all that long. Now – particularly in western countries – we live longer, our culture has shifted dramatically, we’re better educated and have access to far more resources than we ever have before. With that said, in the US while the minimum age for marriage is 18 across most states, states have exemptions to this that allow child marriage to take place. Culturally this is far less acceptable, but child marriage still exists in pockets of the US as it does world-wide.

What this shows us is that changing the law is just one important step in ending child marriage. If we can tackle root causes and raise awareness, we can see the end of it. It will take time, and lots of work. But it will happen.

We’ve seen throughout history that we can change and adapt as our circumstances and our access to resources change. This happens all over the globe. The next generation in Tanzania is taking the reins of their futures, demanding change in the law and in their communities.

We’re proud Australians are willing to stand with them. When we do, we do so in solidarity, in acknowledgement that our history is not dissimilar and with pride that the future of Tanzania is in exceptional hands with these young activists.

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