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This Has to Stop
The Child Bride Problem Is Still Alive and Well
By Shane Clarke
London Correspondent
The Child Bride Problem Is Still Alive and Well

My 15 year old daughter is at home with me today. She’s not feeling well, so I allowed her to have the day off school.

She’s sitting on the armchair in her pyjamas, using her laptop, laughing joyously at video clips of funny animals on Youtube. Although like every girl of her age she wants to be a grown up, the reality is that she’s still a child. She still does childish things; she even still has a favourite teddy bear that she keeps on her bed.

This is the way it should be. Childhood is a fleeting thing – just blink and you’ll miss it. By the time we start to appreciate this, it’s gone, which is why we tell our children to treasure it while they can. “You’ll be an adult for a very long time – don’t try to grow up too fast.”

How sad that no one said this to children like Fawziya Abdullah Youseff, who died in Yemen last September during childbirth. She was 11 years old. Elissa Wall, at just 14, was forced to marry her 19 year old cousin – that took place in the US.

All over the world, children are being forced into marriage with older men. These children are then raped, violated, threatened and beaten to make sure they stay in line. It’s simply child abuse and paedophilia under a different name.

What makes it worse is that a lot of people don’t even know that this kind of thing still goes on. They tell themselves, “This is the 21st century; we have human rights, that kind of thing can’t still be happening.” They’ll be allowed to go on thinking that way, because not enough is being done to bring it to their attention.

Every day in the UK, we see television adverts from child protection charities, talking about child abuse, how terrible it is, and how we must stop it. They tell stories about an uncle, or a friend of the family, abusing a young girl and warning her that if she tells anybody he will come and get her. They never talk about girls like Ruby Jessop, in the US, who at 14 years old was forced to marry a middle-aged man. There’s nothing said about the investigation currently taking place in Kuala Lumpur over an 11 year old girl who was allegedly taken from her home to be married to a 41 year old man, or the 10 year old girl in Pasir Mas who was married off to a 40 year old man.

Commenting on the case involving the 11 year old, Kuala Lumpur’s Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil has urged Police and the Attorney-General’s chambers to fast-track the investigation into recent cases of underage girls being forced to marry older men. This is to “send the right signal” to the community at large.

“How can we let this thing happen?” She said. “If we do not nip this problem in the bud, people will think that this is the norm.”

These comments were made in the Parliament lobby on Tuesday. Perhaps if more politicians around the world had the courage to stand up and speak out in their own Parliaments, then we could make some headway towards ending what is essentially a pseudo-acceptable form of Paedophilia.



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Shane Clarke serves as London Correspondent for The Seoul Times. He has been involved in humanitarian work for numerous years. He’s also a freelance management consultant. Having completed an honors degree in Law at Wolverhampton University, he then moved on to an MBA at Warwick Business School. He’s heavily involved in the fight against international parental child abduction to Japan.

 

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