OHCHR defines forced marriage as “a marriage in which one and/or both parties have not personally expressed their full and free consent to the union. Child marriage is considered to be a form of forced marriage, given that one and/or both parties have not expressed full, free and informed consent. Statistics by UNCHR in 2011 mention that in Uganda, “10% of girls are married off before the age of 15 and 40% of girls are married off before their 18th birthday,” making Uganda one of the countries with the highest rates.
An alarming rate of young Ugandan girls is getting married because their families cannot afford sanitary pads. When girls start menstruating, they drop out of school and get married because the schools do not have the proper resources as well as their families. Reuters mentions, “U.N. children’s agency UNICEF has estimated around 60 percent of girls in Uganda miss class because their schools lack separate toilets and washing facilities to help them manage their periods. Many fall behind and end up quitting school. Once out of school they are more likely to be married off.”
Additionally, according to the Daily Monitor, “many forced marriages are initiated by parents as a way of acquiring wealth in [the] form of bride price given in exchange for their underage daughters.” It is important to note that most of these families are poor, struggling to get their daily meals. Through forced marriage, these families may get land, money or domestic animals. However, the lives of the daughters are changed forever, sometimes for the worse.
Forced marriage has serious physical and psychological effects. Forced marriage can lead to depressed mood, irritability, low self-esteem, anger and frustration, trouble sleeping, difficulty building connections on a personal level, and difficulty trusting others. Victims have other mental health problems and may be involved in behaviours such as self-harm, anorexia, and drug and alcohol abuse. Moreover, there is a chance that child brides may get pregnant early leading to health issues. They feel isolated and do not feel like confiding in anybody, including close friends.
Governments must provide sexual and reproductive health services to young people to reduce teenage pregnancies, a problem that contributes to the problem of forced marriage. We need to support girls’ education. Collectively, as a society, we should commit to raising awareness about these issues and also donate to fundraisers and charities.
“How to Step up Fight against Child Marriage.” Plan International, 2 May 2018, plan-international.org/blog/2018/05/02/how-to-step-up-fight-against-child-marriage/. Accessed 9 Oct. 2022.
Joy for Children Uganda. “Child, Early, and Forced Marriage in Uganda.” Joy For Children Uganda.
Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for. “Refworld | Uganda: Forced Marriages, Including Prevalence among the Buganda [Baganda] Ethnic Group, and among Educated Buganda Women; Protection and Support Services Available to Women Who Refuse a Forced Marriage (2012-October 2015).” Refworld, www.refworld.org/docid/577b73384.html. Accessed 28 Sept. 2022.