Young girls who are forced into child marriages suffer physical, emotional, social and economic consequences. They receive little or no education and, therefore, are generally unable to generate their own income, remaining vulnerable and dependent on their spouses.
The subsequent power imbalance in the marriage leads to issues such as domestic violence, social exile, female disempowerment and psychological issues such as depression.
Studies have shown that girls aged 10 to 14 are five times more likely to die during childbirth than females aged 20 to 25. This is because the reproductive system of very young girls exposed them to high risk during pregnancy.
Despite its negative consequences, child marriage is prevalent in some Ghanaian communities, and studies have shown it is causing irreversible damage to its young female victims and contributing to the poverty cycle.
Committed to combating the problem, a group of community leaders, pastors and university lecturers held a forum in Accra on Monday to collectively discuss ways of addressing the issue.
Addressing the forum, a lecturer at the National Film and Television Institute, Dr Sarah Dsane, said many child marriage victims ended up becoming a second or third wife to a much older man. The living conditions of these girls are so poor that they often run away and become victims of abuse on the streets.
The female victims who remain within these marriages are forced to raise their own children, despite lacking their own full emotional and physical development. The impact of the problem affects their children, which continues the cycle of poverty and lack of education.
The community leaders discussed practical solutions and found education and awareness creation the keys to preventing child marriages. “We need to organise public fora to educate not only these girls, but also their communities,” said Dr Dsane.
The overriding message of the forum was ‘knowledge is power’ and a participant urged his colleagues to unite female leaders on the issue. These authoritative figures would be equipped to disseminate this knowledge throughout remote communities.
Participants also realised the need to make effective use of the media and traditional and cultural institutions to promote the anti-child marriage message in mainstream society.
Speaking at the launch of the National Children's Day in Accra, last year August, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur, was reported to have said that child marriage, which may also be called forced marriage, had assumed a disturbing trend in Ghana, with the Upper East Region recording the highest rate.
She said although a legal frame-work to prevent child marriage existed, the phenomenon was still prevalent in Ghana and there was the need for a collaborative effort to fight it.
Source: Daily Graphic
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