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The third side of the coin -The Asian Age


-Tasneem Hossain

Wedding bells - grand festivity, entertainment and a world full of joy- isn’t this, what we think of when we hear the news of weddings?

Unfortunately for many girls, around the world, marriage means sacrificing their hopes, aspirations, health and sometimes precious life.

Nurunnahar, a meritorious 14 year girl, got married to an expatriate 34 year old man from a neighboring village on 20 September 2020. She succumbed to injuries caused due to excessive genital bleeding on 25 October 2020.  

What a sad end to a blooming girl of 14 who could have had a wonderful and beautiful future.

Child marriage is a curse and has always been a global problem across countries, ethnicities, cultures and religions. 

Child marriage is any formal marriage or informal union where one or both the parties are under 18 years of age.  Alarmingly, every year, 12 million girls from Africa to the Middle East, South Asia to Europe and to Latin America get married before the age of 18. However, child marriage is more prominent in South Asia where 46 percent of girls marry before they are 18 years.

Child marriages, among many other factors, are mostly fueled by poverty, lack of educational opportunities, traditions, cultural beliefs and social norms around gender roles and inequality,

The ugly fact is it remains widespread, particularly in most developing nations. 

Whatever the reasons, child marriage exposes girls to domestic violence and obstructs freedom throughout their lives. It has tremendous adverse effects on their health, hinders education, minimizes economic opportunities, increases risk for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies. High risk pregnancies sometimes lead to death during childbirth and increase mortality risk for the premature newborn. These take a heavy toll on the girls’ physical and psychological well-being; and severely limit prospects in life.

Despite laws, the harmful practice remains widespread. If child marriage is to be stopped, laws need to be enforced and severe punishment meted out to the law breakers.  

Wodon et al. (2017) The Economic Impacts of Child Marriage research, conducted jointly by The World Bank and The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), shows that the biggest economic impacts of child marriage are related to high fertility and over population.  It emphasizes that this human rights violation creates a huge negative impact on the national economy in the countries involved.

Ending child marriage is crucial to save innocent lives of these child brides. 

Moreover, it will curb birth rates, increase productivity resulting in economic growth.

Thus, child marriage is on one side of the coin, the front face ‘obverse’.

On the other side, the back face ‘reverse’ is the issue of late marriage. 

What’s meant by ‘Late Marriage’? 

We may consider late marriages for women starting in the mid- 30s based on the natural biological clock. 

Late marriage is the result of progress for women empowerment worldwide. Women now prefer to get married at an older age than the last decade generation: focusing more on getting a good education and becoming financially independent. This trend started much earlier in western countries but it is catching up, though very slowly, in the developing countries too.

However, if we look closely on the issue of late marriage for women, it also has quite a few drawbacks and risks.

Let’s focus here only on child birth and its impacts

One of the crucial problems is women might face complicated conception. Anxiety from this may impede pregnancy. The risk for miscarriage and genetic abnormalities in the children begins to rise after age 35.  The failure to conceive may create marital discord. The possibility of dying, while the children are too young is also a matter of concern.

As delayed marriages result in low fertility, it has impacts on demographic outcomes such as population growth rate. It reduces population size not at all ages but only among the young and creates a momentum for future population decline and an ageing population. The longer low fertility pervades, the harder to reverse population decline. If the population is to be demographically sustainable this situation must be stopped.To overcome this situation and boost population growth, affected countries need to focus on attaining higher levels of fertility.

Alarmingly, both sides of the coin have negative impacts on physical and mental health issues of the female population. 

Also, factors involving population growth are issues which need immediate attention.

So, what’s the solution?

The third side, the outer border between the two sides of the coin ‘the edge’, maybe the solution.

Fetzer (2021) documents the advice and experiences of professionals from various fields. 

Alicia Taverner, owner of Rancho Counseling says “There is a certain maturity level that a person reaches where they will likely succeed in their marriage, and it usually happens after age 25”. Life decisions made prior to age 25 can be problematic because they’re made without a fully developed ability to reconcile moral and ethical behavior. 

“The late 20s and early 30s are when people’s professional careers are coming into play and finances can be worked out,” says Kemie King of the King Lindsey, P.A. law firm in Florida.

We may follow the ‘Goldilocks theory,’ where Carrie Krawiec, a marriage and family therapist,explains that people should be “old enough” to understand the difference between true compatibility and puppy love, yet “young enough” to make adjustments with their partner’s  habits and lifestyle. 

Wodon et al (2017) found for almost everyone—regardless of sex, race, religious tradition, sexual history, and the family structure—that the late 20s appears to be the best time to marry.

I believe that’s the transition point between child marriage and late marriage the ‘edge’. 

It’s said ‘Marriages are made in Heaven’. Isn’t it our responsibility to make them work?

-Tasneem Hossain is a multilingual poet, columnist,op-ed columnist and training consultant. She is the Director of Continuing Education Center, Bangladesh.


References

Wodon, Quentin, Chata Male, Ada Nayihouba, AdenikeOnagoruwa, Aboudrahyme Savadogo, Ali Yedan, Jeff Edmeades et al. "Economic impacts of child marriage: global synthesis report." (2017).

Watson , Stephanie. “What's the Best Age to Get Pregnant?” Healthline, September 19, 2018. https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/best-age-to-get-pregnant. 

Fetzer, Mary. “What is the ‘Right’ Age to Get Married?” California Wedding Day.Accessed March 25, 2021.https://californiaweddingday.com/expert-wedding-advice/what-right-age-get-married