Written by: Anaabah Caroline
Despite the protection of human rights in Ghana, the girl child still has no control over when to marry, whom to marry, and how to marry in the upper east region. Marriage before the age of 18 is a reality for many young women. In many parts of the world, especially Ghana, parents encourage the marriage of their daughters while they are still children in hopes that the marriage will benefit them both socially and financially while also relieving the financial burden on the family.
Globally, 36% of women aged 20-24 were married or in a union, forced or consensual before they had reached 18. Also, an estimated number of 14million girls between the ages of 15-19 give birth each year. However, child marriage is a violation of human rights which causes violence and early pregnancies. It also causes a poor educational level of the girls, low vocational skills, and increased poverty among these girls.
This piece is going to explain the causes of child marriage and its unending consequence in the region.
Out of the girls in the region, over 90% depend on their parents for everything including school fees, accommodation, and food and among others. Also, in this same region, only 20% of parents can cater to the needs of their children fully leaving the rest to either fend for themselves or stop schooling completely.
Parents then start to look for alternatives to relieve the financial burden on the family. They start to encourage their girl child to marry men old enough to be their fathers to get this financial security. Children who refuse to do so are either left to fend for themselves or are sacked from home completely. This makes children abide by their parents’ wishes and marry these old men.
Another excuse used by parents to marry off their children at an early age is a tribute to their ancestors.
They see child marriages as preserving traditions. It is surprising for parents to see child marriage as customs inherent to their ancestors. They believe girls must marry a virgin and that is why they give girls at an early stage (as virgins). Some parents may get their children engaged in building strong
relationships between clans or powerful families saying they are ‘preserving tradition’.
Gender discrimination also plays a part in early marriages. Many agencies are fighting against gender discrimination, however, there are still people and cultures that devalue women and girls and discriminate against them. We still have people in the Upper East region that do not see the need for the girl child to be educated, catered for, and treated like the male child. It is due to this mindset they do not
want to waste resources for the development of the girl and marry her off at an early stage.
Meanwhile, the consequences of child marriage are unbearable to the child and the nation as a whole.
Those who encourage this act do not know they deprive the girl child of so many good things in life such
as good education, good health, mental stability, and property ownership.
Girls who marry at an early age (10-14) are five times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth than women in their 20s. These girls are abused in marriages since they do not work and own property.
They do chores that are above their task as children and are assaulted daily as husbands (old men) see them as children.
Child marriages minimize ends the girl’s childhood prematurely, curtails her education, minimize her economic opportunities, increases her risk of domestic violence, and puts her at risk of early pregnancies and its consequence. This can cause mental violence and premature death of the girl child which reduces the labor force of the country. It makes the Government channel money into health since most
of these girls are often sick (vulnerable).
To sum it up, early marriages are dangerous and should be forbidden in Ghana totally. Laws that existed should be strengthened to punish people who support it especially parents and husbands of these young girls. Marriage should be a happy union between two people and hence the girl child’s consent should be given first before any marriage. Lastly, people in the upper east region and Ghana as a whole
should be each other’s keeper and not support unhealthy practices like child marriage (early