Child marriages: not only in far-away-countries

You probably heave read it somewhere last week, it was all over the news media: every two seconds an underage girl gets married, beyond her control. Far from here? Not really. There are also child marriages in Belgium, though it is illegal there.

Child marriages compromise a woman’s future: the girl stays away from school, doesn’t get a diploma, sees her life change dramatically and has difficulties finding a good job. So this can be considered a violation of children’s and human rights.

The Belgian government wants to step up the struggle against child marriages in the partner countries of Belgian development cooperation, but research by the International Centre for Reproductive Health (ICRH) reveals that this problem also occurs in Belgium itself.

This was pointed out at a conference on the topic, organised by the Institute for Equality of Woman and Men, Plan Belgium and the UGhent research institute ICRH.

In an artikel in ‘het Nieuwsblad’ (in Dutch) we read:

Between 2010 and 2013, the police registered 56 complaints about forced marriages. ‘But as is often the case when it concerns violence against women and children, there tends to be underreporting’ says professor Els Leye of ICRH.  Complaints seldom reach the police, because of fear or loyalty towards the family or the community. That fear has far-reaching consequences: psychological problems, violence, isolation, financial and integration problems.

ICRH research indicates that professionals consider themselves a insufficiently trained in recognizing forced marriages. Legislation exists bus is insufficiently known an implementation remains difficult. A national action plan

A national action plan that the Institute for Equality of Women and Men is submitting to the governments, contains a number of recommendations, among others that more concrete tools must be developed to identify forced marriages fast and adequately.

Picture: © Belga, A 12-year old bride in Herat, Afghanistan