• Sweden's news in English
 

'EU must help end medieval child marriages'

Published: 14 Feb 2014 09:20 GMT+01:00

St. Valentine’s Day was not associated with romantic love until a poem written by Geoffrey Chaucer in 1382 to celebrate the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia: "For this was on Saint Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate", he wrote in marking the occasion.

It's ironic that Richard's and Anne’s marriage gave rise to the most recognizable modern symbol of romance and a celebration of our right to be with the one we love. This was a union for practical and political purposes. It is unlikely that love had much to do with it or that Anne, 15 years old at the time, had much of a say in the matter.

Considering these origins, St. Valentine’s Day is an appropriate moment to think about the 14 million girls under 15 who will be forced into marriage in 2014, and what the EU and its member states can do about it.

Child marriage is most prevalent in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, though it take place in all regions of the world. Most typically found in rural areas, it occurs also in the cities. All child marriages have in common that they are arranged in societies where gender discrimination is a brutal, unquestioned reality. In these societies, women and girls are considered property. The violence perpetrated against them is casual and daily routine.

The forced union of children has disastrous consequences for the lives of young girls. They are denied education, enter domestic servitude, are introduced to sex at far too early an age, and become vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections including HIV. They are often exposed to sexual and domestic violence and, in some cases, sex trafficking.

In some regions, their marriage is preceded by female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced feeding. Due to their young age, child brides face higher risks during pregnancy, such as obstetric fistula, because their bodies are not sufficiently developed to carry a child. The child-marriage practice contributes significantly to high rates of maternal and child mortality and morbidity. When the baby does survive, he or she is introduced into a world of dire poverty and, if female, will likely become a victim of forced marriage themselves within a few short years.

Child marriage is a human rights violation that opens the door to a lifetime of many more human rights violations.

READ ALSO: Sweden halts deportation of Pakistani teen threatened with FGM and forced marriage

The ruinous consequences of child marriage reach far beyond the individual. The practice seriously impedes economic growth in developing countries. In contrast, women who marry later in life receive a decent education and are more likely to get a good job and contribute to the economy. Women who have their children later in life are more likely to have healthier and better-educated children and can space their children thanks to family planning.

Yet so deeply embedded are the cultural roots of child marriage that the world has made relatively little progress in tackling it, but with the correct approach this is something we can change.

We are entering a crucial period in the formulation of the international development goals that will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they expire in 2015. Tackling child marriage must become a global priority, included within the post-2015 development framework. Ending child marriage requires a focused and measurable approach, which the visibility of being one of the post-2015 goals can help achieve.

Given the social and economic ruin child marriage causes, not to address the practice would compromise the achievement of a broad range of the other new goals, just as it has done with the MDGs. In the upcoming international negotiations, the EU and its member states must make a strong argument for ending child marriage.

Alongside this, in their multi-lateral and bi-lateral aid programmes, the EU and its member states must include specific goals and indicators for the eradication of child marriage and the gender discrimination that lies at its core. It is only through these external pressures and support that states where child marriage is a problem will introduce the changes necessary to eliminate it.

If we do not change our approach, this medieval practice will continue to destroy lives and hold back economies. And, for the 14 million girls a year who are forced to marry, St. Valentine’s Day will continue to be a cruel reminder of a freedom they are denied.

Cecilia Wikström 
Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) Member of the European Parliament
 

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Swedish drug users ‘need’ syringe exchanges
A needle exchange centre in Malmö. Photo: TT

Swedish drug users ‘need’ syringe exchanges

Needle and syringe exchange programmes should be introduced across the country, to reduce the growing risk of hepatitis C, Sweden’s Public Health Agency (Folkhälsomyndigheten) writes in a new report. READ  

'We must never forget the Holocaust'
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven at the Stockholm Synagogue commemorative ceremony on Tuesday. Photo: TT

'We must never forget the Holocaust'

Sweden marked the sombre 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz extermination camp on Tuesday at several locations, with Prime Minister Stefan Löfven noting that hate is still a sore reality in Sweden. READ  

Stieg Larsson sequel set for 35 country release
Rooney Mara, star of the English-language film versions of the series. Photo: TT

Stieg Larsson sequel set for 35 country release

A sequel to the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson's best-selling Millennium crime trilogy will go on sale in at least 35 countries from August, the book's publishers have announced. READ  

Top ice stars skate into Stockholm's Globe
Spain's Javier Fernandez is hoping to defend his title. Photo: TT

Top ice stars skate into Stockholm's Globe

Some of the world’s top figure skaters are sliding into Sweden’s capital to take place in the European figure skating championships which get underway in Stockholm's Ericsson Globe on Wednesday. READ  

Sweden heading for coldest weekend of 2015
Snowy weather in Stockholm last week. Photo: TT

Sweden heading for coldest weekend of 2015

It's only Tuesday, but meteorologists are already warning that the weekend could the coldest this year, with temperatures dipping below -10C in the south of the country. READ  

Sweden's public radio blocked by 'Nazi' tape
The front door to the offices of P4 Dalarna on Tuesday morning. Photo: Johannes Rosendahl

Sweden's public radio blocked by 'Nazi' tape

Staff at P4 Dalarna radio, which is part of Sweden's national public radio broadcaster Sveriges Radio, discovered tape put up by neo-Nazis blocking the entrance to their office's main entrance on Tuesday morning. READ  

Islamism 'threat' greater than Nazism: SD leader
Acting Sweden Democrat leader Mattias Karlsson. Photo: TT

Islamism 'threat' greater than Nazism: SD leader

Acting Sweden Democrat leader Mattias Karlsson has said Islamism is "a greater threat than Nazism", sparking a strong response from Jewish and Muslim communities as the world marks 70 years since the liberation of Nazi concentration camps. READ  

Opinion
'Sweden's healthcare is an embarrassment'
A Swedish hospital emergency room. Photo: TT

'Sweden's healthcare is an embarrassment'

For this week's debate article, Johan Hjertqvist, president of Health Consumer Powerhouse, an organization which compares global healthcare systems, reacts to a new report which reveals that waiting times in Sweden's hospitals are among the worst in Europe. READ  

Ericsson profits drop as US demand slumps
Ericsson's Stockholm office. Photo: TT

Ericsson profits drop as US demand slumps

Swedish telecoms giant Ericsson's profit plunged by over a third in the fourth quarter of 2014, dragged down by falling demand in its key market North America, the company announced on Tuesday. READ  

Record 'Oscar' win for Sweden's Ruben Östlund
Swedish director Ruben Östlund. Photo: TT

Record 'Oscar' win for Sweden's Ruben Östlund

Sweden's hottest director of the moment, Ruben Östlund, was celebrating on Tuesday after his movie Turist scored a record number of awards at Sweden's Guldbagge 2015 ceremony, the country's version of the Oscars. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Business & Money
FATCA: 'The age of financial privacy is over'
Gallery
IN PICTURES: January snow snaps
Gallery
Property of the week: Skanör, Vellinge
National
Why Sweden's Left party wants a European 'Red Spring'
Lifestyle
'Life as a Swedish candy-maker is sweet'
Blog updates

26 January

The mysterious -s, part 1 (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! How is your Swedish coming along? A while ago I read on a forum on The..." READ »

 

23 January

Editor’s blog, January 23rd (The Local Sweden) »

"Happy Friday from The Local’s team in Stockholm. We can’t wait for the weekend, when we’re planning..." READ »

 
 
 
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's hottest new fashion designers for 2015
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Who travels on Stockholm's different subway lines?
Lifestyle
Why this Swedish baby is a US hit
Lifestyle
'Limousine' snowplough for sale
People-watching: January 24th - 25th
Gallery
People-watching: January 24th - 25th
Society
Meet the 'beggars' buttoning up immigration critics
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden this week
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Princess Madeleine through the years
Features
Learn Sweden's bizarre dating lingo
People-watching: January 21st - 22nd
Gallery
People-watching: January 21st - 22nd
Society
Why Sweden's viral 'genital' video is getting an English remake
National
Why does Sweden's Luleå have a giant ice beaver?
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Who are Sweden's richest one percent?
Business & Money
How a classic Swedish snack got a revamp for 'busy' Stockholmers
Lifestyle
The Local's top Swedish acts for 2015
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's Årets Bild photography prize winners
Business & Money
'I met my Swedish man in Tokyo's first Ikea store'
Gallery
Property of the week: A cozy apartment in Bromma, Stockholm
Gallery
People-watching: January 17th - 18th
Lifestyle
How to make Swedish gravad lax
Lifestyle
Four hot Swedish home design trends
National
How The Local's video on a strange Swedish sound went viral
Gallery
People-watching: January 14th
National
The Local's guide to Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Politics
Paris attacks: Knock-on effects in Sweden and across Europe
National
Swedish Muslims react to new Charlie Hebdo magazine
National
The Local talks to Sweden's Home Affairs Minister about Paris attacks
Business & Money
Will Spotify launch on stock market after users rocket?
Accelerated
Texans and Swedes to play ice instruments
Gallery
Property of the week: An 18th century mansion in Stockholm
Business & Money
'Snowboarding drew me to work in chilly Sweden'
National
Are Sweden's royals moving to London?
National
How Sweden's Charlie Hebdo rally broke a winter protest record
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Princess Madeleine through the years
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Stockholm's 'no pants' subway day 2015
Gallery
People-watching: January 10th - 11th
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Stockholm holds Charlie Hebdo rally
National
Have you seen Sweden's viral children's 'genital' song?
Sponsored Article
Everything you need to know about moving to Stockholm
Sponsored Article
How to jump-start your career in southern Sweden
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

1,110
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se
Counselling and Psychotherapy in English
Sometimes living in another culture can cause stress, confusion and feelings of sadness and loneliness. Talking to a professional psychotherapist/counsellor might help you. I am a UKCP Reg. psychotherapist. My practice is in Södermalm, Stockholm.
Contact me to discuss your options