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New Social Compact

The Modern Tragedy of Child Marriage

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Authors: Pooja Shah & Russell Whitehouse

“And just like that, my mother was married to the village chaiwala when she was 14!” I distinctly recall my grandmother saying as we sat together on the front porch, warmed by the mid-summer breeze.“14? She’s a child!” I gasped out of horror. “How can she be married? Her parents allowed it?” I ignorantly continued.

It was July 2011. I was visiting my now-late grandmother in Ahmedabad, Gujarat after a two-month writing excursion through Mussoorie. The first few days of my stay were filled with pleasantries and questions about school and life in “Amreeka”, quickly followed by the incessant questioning of when I would get married and if I found a suitable companion yet… Of course, to a 19-year old college sophomore student barely at the cusp of adulthood, marriage felt like an intangible figment of my imagination, as it did for most of my peers back home who were too occupied by finalizing our majors and what party to attend next weekend. However, as my grandmother spoke, summoning stories of her own mother, it became dauntingly obvious that not only marriage was the traditional norm, but marrying early was the expectation in the era she grew up in.

12% of girls in the developing world will be married off before the age of 15; in many of the world’s poorest countries, like Bangladesh, over half of girls will be married off before the age of 18.  According to the IWWC, over 400M women aged under 50 years old are survivors of child marriage. .Western countries aren’t exempt from this scourge: over 200k girls have been married in this current century in the US.

Although theoretically child marriage is outlawed in India, in many rural areas, impoverished families will often “give away” their children in exchange for fleeting economic security. Rooted deeply in religious, traditional and cultural norms, and often motivated by economic factors, many families view child marriages as a means to end their economic suffering.

My grandmother confided in me that her mother, a child herself, gave birth at the age of 16 with a husband who was nine years her senior. Dadi dismissed my shocking reaction and confirmed, once again, that this was not atypical. I began to realize over the course of our conversation the very limited rights and personal choices these children, particularly young girls, have. Their lives are a mere transaction: exchanging their livelihood and existence for a few rupees on their families behalf, all while being forced to forego their educations, childhood, hobbies, and sense of independence.

This commodification of the lives of girls reinforces a culture of deep misogyny. Being married off while school-age tends to end a girl’s education; less than half of child brides have completed primary (let alone higher) education.  This can create economic shackles for a girl in a marriage; without even a basic education, a girl or young woman is unlikely to find a job that can create any level of financial freedom.  Being saddled with a child from a young age also impedes a girl’s ability to leave the house to find work.  With this reality in mind, it’s no shock that child brides are 9% more likely to experience physical or sexual abuse (generally by a husband or parent in-law) than women.  A young lady with little education is less likely to be aware of legal options to end this suffering, like filing a domestic abuse complaint with the police or filing for divorce. 

Such a culture is likely to continue other degrading practices, like female genital mutilation and widow ostracizing, as well as create whole generations of traumatized girls and young women.  The systemic rape of young girls inevitably moves the social Overton window, making the rape of women, men and boys seem less important or even noteworthy.  Growing up in a household featuring such disparate power dynamics is liable to create a twisted sense of self-esteem and justice among children of child brides.  Mothers are one of the primary sources of the pedagogy of a child.  Thus, girls who were taken from their schools to get married would be less well equipped to contribute to their children’s education.  This would be especially apparent in terms of sexual education; a culture of child brides is intrinsically less able to teach its children about health topics like STDs and birth control, to say nothing of ethical issues like consent.

My dadi also revealed how her own mother suffered multiple miscarriages throughout her youth, as her body was not fully equipped to bear pregnancy. This is unsurprising; young girls aren’t biologically ready to go through the physical traumas of pregnancy and giving birth.  Pregnant girls under 15 have quintuple the maternal mortality rate of women; 88% of them suffer obstetric fistulae, which often lead to permanent disability.  Girls are also disproportionately likely to receive cervical lacerations during intercourse, which can lead to cervical cancer down the line.  The children resulting from these underage marriages suffer similar hazards.  Babies born to child brides are 28% more likely to die within their first 5 years of life than babies born to women.

When confronted by my bachelorette status (as I often was when I visited India), I remember I would always counter with “I have to finish school first”, acknowledging the privilege I had to control my education and career aspirations. When it comes to these child brides, often times marrying at a young age will likely mean an end to their education, and in turn, will hinder their ability to obtain the skills and knowledge that is vital for income-generating employment.

That day I was enraged by the fact that child marriage continues to exist in the 21st century, as well as my personal lack of awareness on the issue. It has been over eight years since that enlightening conversation, and thankfully due to the tireless efforts of activists, legislators, and advocates there has been movement towards ending child marriage. In fact, UNICEF and Indian Wedding Buzz joined forces earlier this year on Valentines’ Day to #EndChildMarriage, demonstrating that one of the most crucial steps in eradicating this humans right issue is to stand against it. By utilizing their global social media platform and influential magazine, the #EndChildMarriage initiative was aimed at raising awareness of the implications of child marriage and more importantly, how we, collectively, can help put a stop to it. The campaign further empowered young girls in many South Asian and African countries (i.e. Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, among nine others) with the information and resources to understand the implications of what they are being forced into. Furthermore, the program continued to develop national strategies with the efforts of government investments, religious leaders, and of course our community. This social media sensation, backed by Indian Wedding Buzz, demonstrated their respective commitment to being part of the change, so that we as South Asians, as Americans and as humans can follow suit to be part of this revolutionary movement. After all, there is strength in numbers.

New Social Compact

Multicultural Weddings: How to Make Them Work

Newsroom

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An eternal binding of two people who are deeply in love is a marvelous occasion. Any wedding for that matter is a solid reason to celebrate love, but what happens when cultures interfere? Actually, the blend of two cultures is becoming more and more frequent, therefore a fusion of religions, traditions, and various wedding customs is not that big of a challenge nowadays. However, familial formalities, specific ceremonies, and other petite customs can add up to the complexity of the organization. Luckily, here you have a few rather nifty tips on how to make everything work smoothly.

Balance it up

To leave the fuss and agitation of the way, most couples that come from different cultural backgrounds consider having two separate weddings. This is what unites the families more and restores the much-needed balance in the forthcoming marriage. You can hold a formal Christian reception for instance, and later have a traditional Indian ceremony in one go. As you balance the two ceremonies, blend and fuse different elements of your cultural backgrounds, you would have a perfect match.

Revive the details

The best way to add a nod to your wedding is to present your cultural background in luscious details. This is easier done with food, as you can portray various finger food dishes that are characteristic of your country. Next, ravishing details like jewelry play a vital role in a specific culture. For that reason, a bride can wear a splendid silver jade ring that symbolizes happiness, wisdom, and health instead of wearing a green saree or a traditional African wedding dress with deep green trimmers and accents.

Let the cultures have their say

Another quite glamorous and effective way to incorporate details from each side is to organize them timidly. This means engaging both cultures within areas that you feel are important. You can mix up the food form both backgrounds and make the guest acknowledge your traditions. Besides the cuisine, you can incorporate some of the cultural rituals. Unlike Christian weddings, Indians, Hindi, Muslim, and some other cultures have specific rituals, and by implementing them into your wedding program the guest will see your devotion to the traditions and respect towards your parents.

Be genuine

In this modern-day and age, it can be hard to utterly neglect contemporary notions, especially when it comes to weddings. It is perfectly normal to have your own unique style and to incorporate it in your multicultural wedding. Respect the parents and the customs, but if you desire to make your wedding work, then add your personal touch. It can be as simple as music. Hire a DJ to play your favorite hits or have a rock band. Mix things up with decoration, add elegance, romance, and even put the vintage flair instead of obeying all of the traditional rules. Your wedding theme should be the one you feel most comfortable with.

Speak your mind

Communication is a must. Very often parents tend to interfere a lot in multicultural weddings, but try to keep the tension low, and stand firmly by your wishes. Bear in mind to listen to your soon-to-be family about the suggestion and alteration that they may have, but always resort to your partner to agree on final terms. Everybody will shout out innumerable pieces of advice, but as future spouses, you need to stick together and be ready to stand out from the rest. Speak openly with both family member sides and do your best to reach joint agreements, because in that way it will all work flawlessly.

From the venue, flowers, cake, decorations to dining, music and specific heritage details, you as a couple are the ones that will make the wedding turn out as a glorious event. All things aside, always bear in mind that it is love that you are celebrating, not your country.

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New Social Compact

Reasons Behind Women Inequality in Pakistan

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There is much availability of literature that portrays the issues of women inequality along with explaining the suffering of women at the hands of the male partner of society, particularly in Pakistan. Pakistan is a country where women are deprived of their fundamental rights in a male-dominated society which creates a sense of inequality within the country. There is also much reality that male has always remained dominant over female counterpart since the evolution of the world and with the passage of time changes came into the societies but the changes were accepted by some societies and neglected by other ones. The societies which adopted the change and led towards the path of development and progress or modernization are considered the most developed and sophisticated nations of the world which some extent have also given much equality to women as compared to the nations of Asia and the Africa continent.

Multiple feminist moments are working throughout the world for the rights and equality of women. It was 1909 when the first time international women day was observed in America. The basic theme of women’s day always remains the equality of women for a good, healthy, happy, and balanced society. Furthermore, it is insisted that gender equality is the only way to boost economic and social development and better society; therefore it is the responsibility of both males and females to play their part in the role of the progress and development of the society. Thousand years before Aristotle explained that women have an equal right to be happy as men have. According to him, such a society cannot remain happy where women are not happy and independent. If one looks at the employment ratio of males and females in every walk of life within Pakistan, it can be observed that the ratio of males is more than women which shows the gender inequality within the society.

There are multiple stereotypes and old traditions practiced in Pakistani society for a long period because of which women are not considered equal to men. For instance, the first and foremost reason is the physical structure of men, it is considered that men are physically strong than women so being a strong and brave they are superior to women but with the invention of technology, innovation, science, and globalization this idea of superiority and physically strong has become null and void because it has made women do each work which men can do. But this stereotype has been practiced within society since long therefore it has taken roots in the minds of people even such a level that women their selves have accepted this socially constructed idea which has created many difficulties for bringing gender equality. In a present globalized and developed world, women can also contribute to every field in which men can contribute and it is practiced throughout the world particularly in most of the nations of European and American continents.

Second, mostly the source of income has remained in the hands of male counterparts especially in societies like Pakistan it is expected that who has the source income one keeps the dominant position in the family because of economic matters. Today, half of the population of the world consisted of females for that it is very necessary to involve women in every field for the progress and development of society. For running the society smoothly and peacefully, the role and engagement of women in every walk of life are too important because the nations which are considered the most developed, peaceful and sophisticated throughout the world have mostly removed the gender discrimination and inequality along with giving women various rights as men enjoy.

The Thing which is considered most important for gender equality is that women have to work hard for eliminating the stereotypes and old traditions within the society along with changing their mentality and thinking of being weak and less active than men. Moreover, there is the presence of such things which portray women as a weak counterpart of society like the fear of women from small things for instance insects and animals, it looks a trivial thing but hugely effects the minds of people which shows that women need men for their security and safety. Therefore, it is important for women that they should avoid any activity which portrays the weak image of them. It also influences the minds of men, who also mentally accept that women need male protection rather women should do such actions and activities which make their personality more strong and brave. If anyone wants to bring the change that change starts from the minds of people because if people mentally accept the anything, it is considered the first step towards the change. Therefore, it is high time for the suppressed women of Pakistan to contribute to eliminating the stereotypes followed and practiced against them.

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New Social Compact

Covid-19 Might not be the End

Syed Nasir Hassan

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The world seems to be oblivious when it comes to the non-traditional security paradigms hence certain natural cycles repeat overtime. So is the case with pathogens or viruses and epidemics or pandemics. Countermeasures are taken for known threats whereas the unknown threats are studied and then often brought to the global consciousness. Although, viruses are known and being studied but not often brought to global consciousness due to the overshadowing global political and corporate structure. The world is having a Curve of History where an infectious disease will alter the course of future global political dynamics.

As the world is seeking an end to this Covid-19 pandemic, another reality is obscured from us that is that even it ends it might not be. In this interconnected and extra globalized world where human mobility is irrepressible, it gives a very apt environment to any viral infection to transform itself from just a disease to an epidemic and then to a pandemic. In this regard, humans have themselves become a potential weapon and that too in biological in nature. Despite being caused due to human activity, they undergo a hibernation period after some time or mutate into mild form but after causing a catastrophe.

In 1980, the year when WHO celebrated that it has successfully uprooted the world’s biggest killer of human history, i.e., smallpox which devoured over 500million people only in the 20thcentury. It was the only disease the world had overcome. People started to contemplate that science would overcome epidemics and pandemics. But then the situation got worse as SARS, MERS, EBOLA, SWINE, ZIKA were on the waiting list. It might have been a different scenario if rather focusing that science will do all the work there would have been an understanding regarding why and how pandemics resurface time and time again.

Today, as we are stampeding in the 21st century, the world has become more globalized. Due to overpopulation and mobility, human bodies easily became incubators for diseases. Since most of the viruses live in living organisms, it is difficult to overcome these diseases.

With unprecedented growth in population, it became a need to boost up production lines of food to keep the global cogs rolling. Moreover, another factor which added fuel to fire was human crossing the natural limits. In order to accommodate, the encroachment of jungles began disturbing the wildlife cycles. When jungles started getting bulldozed these animals started to invade human territory as we did theirs, bringing in the viruses as well. This urbanization played to be lucrative ground for the spread, from wild to poultry than to humans. One such thing was swine flu in 2009 which was caused by H1-N1, a Sub-type of influenza-A virus. It caused around 575,000 deaths in its first year of circulation.

Another aspect to be mentioned is our insatiable lust for more which has caused a serious threat to us in form of climate change. As the temperature of the Earth is rising constantly due to human activity the ice caps are melting rapidly too. In August of 2016, a boy died in Serbia and the cause was anthrax. The disease which humans have thought to have gone into a hibernation cycle. Not only this more than 2300 reindeer died due to this outbreak. The prime cause of that outbreak was the melting of permafrost and a dead infected carcass got exposed. A noteworthy point is that on poles the dead do not decompose rather preserve under layers of ice.

WHO has estimated that a global temperature increase of 2-3 oC will increase the number of people who are at risk of malaria by around 3-5% or several hundred million. In 2018, malaria alone killed around 405,000 people. Another epidemic that was caused by misquotes was the Zika outbreak in Latin America, primarily Brazil. What did it cost? A generation effected by microcephalia and other disorders.

It has been estimated that in the last three decades, 30 new diseases have emerged which have the potential to become pandemics. Now it the questions isn’t IF a disease shape-shifts into a pandemic? But WHEN a disease would become pandemic? While the globe is in a fray with Covid-19 some diseases have undergone to be endemic like AIDs which has infected around 37 million people over the globe while humans seems to be in despair.

It is high time for us to have a wakeup call. Being at the pinnacle of civilization, it is indeed a rudiment for a glimmering future to work on solutions. The consequence of such outbreaks is not just death but social and global collapse. It is time that the world focus on preparedness rather post-outbreak measure. It is time that we shift our focus from traditional to nontraditional threats, from nukes to biosciences. It is high time to spend much of our defense budget on nontraditional security threats or we would not even survive to see the traditional ones.

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