Foreign Policy Blogs

Will a Ban on Child Marriage Bring an End to Obstetric Fistula?

“Everyday approximately 25,000 girls become child brides. It is estimated that one in seven girls in the developing world marries before turning 15. These young women are deprived of their childhood, likely to be illiterate, and burdened with responsibilities of marriage and family long before they are suited to take on such tasks,” said Ambassador-at-Large Melanne Verveer, Global Women’s Issues, a new office created by the Obama administration at the Department of State. (July 2010, EpocTimes)

Child marriage continues across the globe, as many cultures remain bound by tradition, holding steadfast to the practice of child marriage.  The practice of child marriages is more prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, however child marriage continues in other parts of the world, including South America, Middle East and among the Roma populations of Europe.

Is an end to child marriage in sight? The question is one that has been asked repeatedly and is one that can be answered positively in time.  However the end is  not one we will see in the near future, but one which can be reached in time with increased efforts and sustainable initiatives.  The battle to end the practice of child marriage across the global is long, nonetheless it is not an impossible battle if the international community and individual states step forward to ensure that the rights of children, especially girls, are ensured and protected.

On Monday U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon announced he is backing ban on child marriage by developing countries, as it leads to child births which results in increased injury or chronic conditions such as fistula. The impact is both expensive to treat and can cause one to be ostracized from their communities. According to a UN report, it would cost some $750 million over the next five years to treat both new and existing cases of obstetric fistula, a hole in the birth canal caused by prolonged labor that particularly affects girls giving birth in adolescence(AlertNet).  The refering report, Supporting efforts to end obstetric fistula, calls for an increase in funding for the training of skilled midwives and birth attendants, setting up efficient referral systems and ensuring better access to emergency obstetric care, in particular Caesarian sections.

Gender discrimination must be put on the forefront of the agenda in order to see an end to the cycle of abuse and poverty, that continue to fuel child marriages.  States must ensure that individual communities are adequately educated on the long-term effects of child marriage,and gender discrimination, and see that sustainable solutions are then put in place. Such solutions include; making a education a priority and ensuring girls have equal access, seeing families have alternatives to pay debts, and providing health education on HIV/AIDS and other diseases.

See previous posts for more on Child Marriage.



Cassandra Clifford
Cassandra Clifford

Cassandra Clifford is the Founder and Executive Director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation, which works to enhance and improve the services and opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery. She holds an M.A., International Relations from Dublin City University in Ireland, as well as a B.A., Marketing and A.S., Fashion Merchandise/Marketing from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Cassandra has previously worked in both the corporate and charity sector for various industries and causes, including; Child Trafficking, Learning Disabilities, Publishing, Marketing, Public Relations and Fashion. Currently Cassandra is conducting independent research on the use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as America’s Pimp Culture and its Impact on Modern Slavery. In addition to her many purists Cassandra is also working to develop a series of children’s books.

Cassandra currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where she also writes for the Examiner, as the DC Human Rights Examiner, and serves as an active leadership member of DC Stop Modern Slavery.

Areas of Focus:
Children's Rights; Human Rights; Conflict

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