• 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 police quiz man over apartment blast
Two men died in an apartment blast in Nyköping. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Swedish police quiz man over apartment blast

A 30-year-old man is being quizzed by police after two men died when a bomb exploded in an apartment in the Swedish town of Nyköping, it has emerged. READ  

Swedish Princess to give birth to baby in June
Sweden's Princess Madeleine and Chris O'Neill. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Swedish Princess to give birth to baby in June

Sweden’s Princess Madeleine is set to give birth to her second child in June. The Queen let slip the month during a state visit to Nordic neighbour Finland. READ  

Copenhagen shootings
Lars Vilks' first talk since Copenhagen cancelled
Controversial Swedish artist Lars Vilks. Photo: Bertil Ericson/SCANPIX

Lars Vilks' first talk since Copenhagen cancelled

UPDATED: The controversial Swedish artist who was the presumed target of one of the Copenhagen terror attacks last month was set to make his first public appearance on Friday. But the talk has been cancelled over security concerns. READ  

Jay Z Swedish music takeover bid blocked
Jay Z performing in Stockholm on his 2013 world tour. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Jay Z Swedish music takeover bid blocked

A 464 million kronor bid ($56m) by rap mogul Jay Z to take over Scandinavian music streaming service Wimp – Spotify's biggest rival – has been blocked by the firm's Swedish owners. READ  

Wallström to speak at Arab League meeting
Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallström. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

Wallström to speak at Arab League meeting

Islamist extremist group Isis, a controversial Saudi arms deal and the Israel-Palestine conflict are likely to be hot topics when Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallström speaks at the opening of an Arab League meeting in Cairo on Monday. READ  

Norwegian strike sparks Sweden travel chaos
Stockholm's Arlanda airport on Wednesday. Photo: TT

Norwegian strike sparks Sweden travel chaos

UPDATED: Budget airline Norwegian Air Shuttle (NAS) cancelled all flights in Scandinavia and several journeys to other European cities on Wednesday as Swedish and Danish pilots joined their striking colleagues in Norway. READ  

More elderly Swedes enjoy an active sex life
Elderly Swedes are having better sex than before. Photo: Therese Jahnson/SvD/TT

More elderly Swedes enjoy an active sex life

Is it possible to have a fulfilling sex life in your autumn years? Swedes think so. New research shows older people are having more – and better – sex than ever before. READ  

Presented by ConnectSweden
'Sweden must connect the dots with India'
Indian Ambassador Banashri Bose Harrison. Photo: Indian Embassy Stockholm

'Sweden must connect the dots with India'

When visitors step off a plane at Arlanda Airport, they are flooded with claims that Stockholm is "the heart of Scandinavia". But Indian Ambassador Banashri Bose Harrison says the city must increase connections to the world in order to live up to its promises. READ  

Half of refugees struggle with bills after a decade
Asylum seekers in northern Sweden last month. Photo: TT

Half of refugees struggle with bills after a decade

Thousands of refugees granted permanent residency in Sweden in 2004 are still getting financial assistance from local municipalities with less than half of them earning 13,000 kronor ($1570) a month, it has emerged. READ  

The Local List
Seven silly signs winter is over in Sweden
Talking and texting is easier in warmer weather. Photo: Susanne Walström/Image Bank Sweden

Seven silly signs winter is over in Sweden

The snow has melted in large parts of Sweden, but there are plenty more clues that spring is on the way, from previously hibernating colleagues suddenly arranging midweek beers to busy barber shops. Here's The Local's unofficial guide to the end of Swedish winter. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Just four Pegida supporters turn out to anti-Islam rally in Sweden
Accelerated for Ice Music
Dylan guitarist makes music history in Sweden
National
Could March bring record-high temperatures to Sweden?
Sponsored Article
Expert US tax preparation for Americans in Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Eknäs, Nacka
Blog updates

27 February

Editor’s blog, February 27th (The Local Sweden) »

"Our most read story this week got picked up by global media from Al Jazeera to..." READ »

 

18 February

The mysterious -s, part 2 (The Swedish Teacher) »

"-s expressing “each other” (reciprocal verbs) You have most likely used this form of the verbs..." READ »

 
 
 
Lifestyle
Madonna set for first Stockholm gig
Sponsored Article
Ten tips for succeeding as a start-up in Sweden
Technology
How you could soon be charging your phone from Ikea furniture
Sponsored Article
Tourist or lifer: what sort of expat are you?
Gallery
People-watching: February 27th - March 1st
Business & Money
Ten Swedish start-ups you haven't heard of (yet)
National
How could Swedes' passion for 'fika' help cut nerve disease?
National
IN PICTURES: Swedes in 'ring of peace' protest
National
Why Copenhagen attacks led a Swedish uni to cancel artist's lecture
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Super cute sloth twins charm visitors to Swedish zoo
Lifestyle
Meet Sweden's first woman chef to win a Michelin star
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: February 26th - March 5th
Accelerated for Ice Music
What is Bob Dylan's guitarist doing in northern Sweden?
Features
How well do you know Sweden's top celebrity couples?
Business & Money
Are company boards 'too white' in Sweden?
Gallery
People-watching: February 25th
Technology
Sweden is dubbed second most 'digital' nation in European Union
National
Why more Swedes want a sex change
National
The return of Sweden's Ace of Base
National
Why has Julian Assange's case been going on for so long?
National
'21' or 'IS'? Swedish police confuse birthday with Islamist extremism
National
Spring has sprung in Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Ängelholm
National
How to never miss your favourite weekly features on The Local
National
Is Sweden home to the world's oldest living cat?
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The life and career of Fredrik Reinfeldt
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Princess Estelle through the years
National
Why are Swedish Jews worried?
Gallery
People-watching: February 19th-22nd
National
'Racist' bird names banned in Sweden
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden this week
National
Nobel prize to go under hammer
National
Swede named 'Fanny' banned from getting UK loyalty card
National
Spotlight on the Swedes that could be funding Islamists
Sponsored Article
Are you an American expat? How to face FATCA
Gallery
People-watching: February 18th
National
Is a chocolate crime wave sweeping across Sweden?
National
What we know about the Copenhagen shootings suspect
National
Danish Ambassador: 'We'll live our lives the way we always have'
National
What does this '90s pop act have to do with a former minister?
Lifestyle
How to embrace Sweden's creamy semla bun tradition
National
Did this Swedish hotel really refuse a gay couple?
Sponsored Article
'Immigration is critical' for Stockholm’s future
Sponsored Article
Stockholm job fair helps immigrant entrepreneurs
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

976
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