Experts: Only strong state policy can exclude early marriage customs

Experts: Only strong state policy can exclude early marriage customs

Azerbaijan, Baku, May 7 / Trend, E.Ostapenko /

Early marriage, widespread in the Muslim world, is remnant of tribal traditions, and only a strong government policy can uproot this tendency, experts believe.

"Only in countries where tough power exists by all means, including politically incorrect means, can such customs be crushed, and have a chance to disappear," Russian Institute for Middle East Studies President Yevgeny Satanovsky told Trend.

Early marriage problem is widespread in many corners of the world in the 21st century, particularly in the Middle East, Southeast Asia. The sad consequences of such marriages are more frequently becoming public.

Child/Early marriage refers to any marriage of a child younger than 18 years old which is seen as an acceptable age to create a family in accordance to the Convention on the Right of the Child of 1989. According to international standards, early marriages are considered a violation of human rights.

One of the recent tragic results of such a marriage took place in April in Yemen where 13-year-old girl lived in a marriage with a 23-year-old man only four days. A medical report by the hospital where she was treated said she had suffered a tear to her genitals and severe bleeding after intercourse. Such cases are thousands.

Measures to combat such customs can only be taken by the state if the government controls the situation, Satanovsky said. As an example, he cited Tunisia, practically the only country in the Arab world where women have genuine equality with men.

Tunisia is a country liberal from the the top where local traditions were crushed by the iron hand of tha law, he said.

Many traditions of family law in Tunisia toward women have been abolished and legally prohibited. Women are not forced to wear Muslim face veils, and even in 1960s abortion was legalized.

"Because the government is local and Islamic, then such a 'soft dictatorship' is perceived as normal, unlike the situation with the ban on wearing the Muslim headdress in Belgium and France. They are perceived as externally imposed colonialists, even those who express indignation, live in these countries refusing to follow their laws," Satanovsky said.

A long period of time is needed to change traditions, a European expert on the Muslim community in Europe, Shada Islam, told Trend from Brussels.

According to the expert, although in many Muslim countries the state does not encourage and actually bans early marriages, people do not implement the legislation.

All measures to fight early marriages customs should be done at governmental level by holding public awareness campaign. The first level is to make it clear that early marriages are not tolerated, that this is harmful to the rights of women. The second track is to make clear that women have rights and those rights should be made more obviously plain to women and men, expert of European Policy Center in Brussels, Shada Islam, said.

Education is extremely important as people are not aware of the harm young girls face when they are married at 10-11 and sometimes earlier to older men, Shada Islam said.

Child brides are often exposed to such serious health risks as premature pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections including, increasingly, HIV/AIDS.

The harmful consequences include separation from family and friends, lack of freedom to interact with peers and participate in community activities, and decreased opportunities for education.

If a mother is under the age of 18, her infant's risk of dying in its first year of life is 60 percent higher than that of an infant born to an older mother, UNICEF report said.

According to Shada Islam, in the countries where the customs of child marriages are widely spread women are considered a little more than a property of male members of the family to be exchanged as prices, as rewards. It is utterly important to work towards improving the status of women in society. Employed women become a valuable member of working market, thus the parents are in no rush to sell them off, she said.

Tougher legislative measures, such as administrative punishment quite acceptable along with the educational methods of struggle, Azerbaijani expert in the field of theology Ramin Vekilov said.

The question of the age requirement for marriage is under debates in many countries of Western Europe. Up to 19-th century it was natural to marry 11-12-year-old girls there. Today, this requirement in different countries ranges from 16 to 18 years.

The question of the age requirement for marriage is under debate also in many countries of Western Europe, in which up to 19th century was considered natural to marry 11-12-year-old girls. Today this requirement in different countries ranges from 16 to 18 years.

"Early marriages are the worldwide tradition. This tradition remains in the patriarchal societies of the Middle East today," Satanovsky said.

Early marriage has nothing to do with Islam, European expert on Arab Muslim minority Asma Abdulhamid said. The correlation of these rites with Islam is a big blow to the image of religion, because one of the basic norms of Islam is the preservation of the family and education of children.

"When a little girl marries, education is out of question. The reason is that young parents can not properly educate their children," Abdulhamid told Trend over phone.

Early marriages are the echoes of tribal culture, still existing in many Arab countries, many parts of the world, Shada Islam said. It is not the norm of religion. According to Islam, women must have the right to choose, but the choice comes only with maturity, she said.

Satanovsky said that in the case of the Muslim countries of the Middle East, the relevant customs of the regions are impressed on the general trend of the Middle East.

"The situation is similar in Africa, he said. - We just know Middle East better than, for example, Africa where anything could happen without the slightest attention from the civilized community".

R. Hafizoglu contributed to the article.

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