• 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
Full refuges reject five battered women a day
File photo: TT

Full refuges reject five battered women a day

Women's shelters in Sweden remain under pressure with a new report indicating that five women a day were turned away in 2014 due to over-crowding. READ  

Two remanded for Gothenburg gang murder
Photo: TT

Two remanded for Gothenburg gang murder

Two young men have been remanded into custody on suspicion of the murder of a 55-year-old man in Gothenburg on Wednesday. READ  

'Unattractive' Swedes offered total makeover
Swedes in need of a total makeover? Photo: Carolina Romare/imagebank.sweden.se

'Unattractive' Swedes offered total makeover

Sweden's least attractive people live in Motala, according to a dating website, but that is soon to change. READ  

Sweden set for brief burst of spring sunshine
Photo: TT

Sweden set for brief burst of spring sunshine

April is a notoriously whimsical weather month and is set to take a turn for the better in Sweden as spring sunshine is set to make a return to many parts of the country . READ  

Swedish teens in hurry to leave home
A housing queue protest in Stockholm in April 2015. Photo: TT

Swedish teens in hurry to leave home

Swedish youngsters leave home earlier their European counterparts, surprising housing researchers. READ  

Swedish study explains coffee cancer link
Cutting cancer, one cup at a time. Photo: TT

Swedish study explains coffee cancer link

Swedish researchers have explained why drinking coffee is thought to lower the risk of contracting breast and other cancers. READ  

Zlatan's French rant ban reduced to three matches
Sweden's star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Zlatan's French rant ban reduced to three matches

Controversial Swedish footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic's ban for his foul-mouthed rant at a referee in which he blasted France as a “shit country” has been reduced from four matches to three, French newspaper Le Parisien reported on Friday. READ  

Syria: ‘most dangerous’ Isis leaders Scandinavian
President Assad. Photo: TT

Syria: ‘most dangerous’ Isis leaders Scandinavian

President Bashar al-Assad has thanked Sweden for taking in record numbers of refugees during the war, but warned about a growing danger from ‘Scandinavian’ Islamist extremists in his country. READ  

New Swedes picked for airport Hall of Fame
Fashion blogger Kenza Zouiten is one of the new faces. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

New Swedes picked for airport Hall of Fame

The new faces that are going to represent Sweden at the Stockholm Hall of Fame at Arlanda airport have been revealed. The gallery of famous Swedes is meant to reflect the country's contemporary icons, but this is its first update in almost nine years. READ  

Swedish Robocop star in Wikileaks email scandal
Joel Kinnaman, left, and his co-star Abblie Cornish in Robocop. Photo: AP Photo/Sony/Columbia Pictures/Kerry Hayes

Swedish Robocop star in Wikileaks email scandal

Sweden's hottest Hollywood star Joel Kinnaman is the latest name to emerge from a Wikileaks' publication of over 170,000 internal Sony Pictures emails stolen in a massive hacker attack last year, alongside one of the Pirate Bay founders and information about the fourth book in the famous Swedish Millennium series. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Features
What you can buy in Sweden for the price of a London shed
Stockholm School of Economics
Sponsored Article
"You may only do something once, but do it 100%"
National
What's on in Sweden this week
Swedish Hasbeens
Sponsored Article
Is the world wrong to connect Sweden with sexiness?
National
Swedes launch first donut into space
Blog updates

17 April

Editor’s blog, April 17th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, After several days of social media buzz about an upcoming announcement from Abba’s Björn Ulvaeus,..." READ »

 

15 April

Gång, timme, tid & dags (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! In this article I will talk about “gång”, “timmar”, “dags” and “tid”, because they all translate..." READ »

 
 
 
Politics
Is Sweden returning to 1990s social democratic welfare politics?
National
Mamma Mia! Abba entertainment venue set to open in Stockholm
Gallery
People-watching: April 15th
National
Why Sweden is top place in the world for expats to raise children
National
Swedish 'submarine' was civilian boat
Sponsored Article
Want to study in Sweden? Read why Stockholm is the best choice
National
Why has a US town got pulled into a Swedish spelling row?
Gallery
Property of the week: Hovås, Gothenburg
National
What does Zlatan think of his ban?
Sponsored Article
Does far-north Sweden have to punch above its weight?
National
Swedish teenagers help rebuild Breivik massacre island
National
Would you live in a steel box?
National
How an act of kindness by one Syrian immigrant went viral
Gallery
People-watching: April 8th
National
Swedish bids for Billboard fame
National
Swedish monkeys denied Saudi visas
National
Sunny spring weather predicted
Sponsored Article
'Impossible' to run Skanska without Bromma Airport
National
Half of Swedes want begging ban
Gallery
Property of the week: Gotland
National
Why are expats less likely to settle down with Swedes?
Sport
What does Sweden think of Zlatan's recent outburst?
Society
Get to grips with Sweden's most bizarre Easter traditions
Gallery
People-watching: April 1st
National
The Local's best April Fools' gags
National
US spy agency to feature in new 'Stieg Larsson' book sequel
National
Beaver bite at Swedish bus stop
Gallery
Property of the week: Åreda
National
How this Syrian travelled to Sweden
Was Swedish TV host too harsh on nationalist leader Åkesson?
Sponsored Article
'Sweden must embrace openness and diversity'
Scandinavian airlines change cockpit rules after Germanwings crash
National
Sweden remembers Nobel laureate Tomas Tranströmer
Politics
Why petrol prices are going up
Gallery
People-watching: March 28th
Stieg Larsson's partner blasts Millennium trilogy sequel
Society
How to never miss your favourite weekly features on The Local
Gallery
People-watching: March 25th
National
Which words are changing in Sweden's latest dictionary?
National
Is this house 'un-Swedish'?
National
Sweden pays tribute to victims of Germanwings Alps crash
National
Neo-Nazi activity rising in Sweden
National
How to make Swedish Waffles
Gallery
Property of the week: Torslanda - Hjuvik
Sponsored Article
Ten tips for succeeding as a start-up in 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

3,342
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