from EMEKA OKONKWO in Abuja, Nigeria
ABUJA, (CAJ News) – MORE than 22 000 girls are estimated to be dying from pregnancy and childbirth resulting from child marriage every year.
Central and West Africa, which have the highest rate of child marriage in the world, account for nearly half (9 600) of all estimated child marriage-related deaths globally, or 26 deaths a day.
Save the Children released the statistics on International Day of the Girl, celebrated yearly on October 11 since 2012.
South Asia sees 2 000 child marriage-related deaths every year, followed by East Asia and the Pacific with 650 deaths and Latin American and the Caribbean, with 560 annual deaths.
Inger Ashing, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children International, said child marriage remained one of the worst and deadliest forms of sexual and gender-based violence against girls.
“Every year, millions are forced into wedlock with men who are often much older, robbing them of an opportunity to keep learning, be children, and in many cases, to survive,” Ashing said.
She said childbirth was the leading killer of teenage girls because their young bodies were not ready to bear children.
“The health risks of children having children cannot, and must not, be ignored,” Ashing said.
She said governments must prioritise girls and ensure girls are protected from child marriage and premature childbirth-related deaths.
“This can only happen if girls have a say in the decisions that affect them,” the official said.
Gender inequality continues to fuel child marriage, as revealed in a national report from Save the Children in Nigeria.
According to a survey carried out by the organisation, the belief that children born to young mothers are healthier and smarter is widespread among many communities.
There’s also a common perception that younger girls “refresh” older men with their “younger blood.”
The practice is still widespread even in countries where child marriage is illegal.
– CAJ News