• Sweden edition
 
Opinion
'EU must help end medieval child marriages'
Girls and women in Afghanistan. File photo: Ann Törnkvist

'EU must help end medieval child marriages'

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

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Swedes insist EU prioritize environment

Swedes insist EU prioritize environment

An EU public opinion poll released on Friday revealed that Sweden is the only nation which thinks the environment should be a top priority for the union. READ  

Police turn blind eye to Swedish 'slave trade'
File photo: TT

Police turn blind eye to Swedish 'slave trade'

Police in Gothenburg have confirmed that sex trafficking in the city has developed into a full-blown slave trade - but that they lack the resources to do anything about it. READ  

Pirate Bay inmate claims religious persecution
Photo: TT/The Missionary Church of Kopimism

Pirate Bay inmate claims religious persecution

Peter Sunde has complained that his religious rights have been impinged after he was refused permission to meet a representative of a church inspired by the keyboard shortcuts for cut and paste. READ  

Stockholm 'bomb man' jailed and deported
Police at the scene of the threat in June. Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT

Stockholm 'bomb man' jailed and deported

The 43-year-old man who threatened Stockholm's Gamla Stan with a bomb in June was sentenced on Friday to two years in jail, followed by deportation. READ  

Swedish police: 'We're sweaty all the time'
Swedish cops are unhappy with the heat. Photo: Håkan Dahlström/Flickr

Swedish police: 'We're sweaty all the time'

Swedish weather agencies say the summer's warmest day is yet to come, but police in the north have decided that they can't take the heat - and filed a report about the own stifling police station. READ  

SAS resumes flights from Stockholm to Tel Aviv
File photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

SAS resumes flights from Stockholm to Tel Aviv

SAS Scandinavian Airlines has resumed flights from Stockholm to Tel Aviv after the airline completed a 'thorough security analysis' of the situation in Israel. READ  

Swedish man stabs woman and kills himself
A Stockholm police car. File photo: TT

Swedish man stabs woman and kills himself

A man and a woman, reported to be both 45-years-old, were found dead on Thursday in an apartment on Lidingö in Stockholm with police suspecting a murder and suicide. READ  

Police fear arson after Sweden mosque fire
Central Norrköping in eastern Sweden. Photo: Stefan Vilcans

Police fear arson after Sweden mosque fire

Swedish police suspect arson after buildings at a mosque in Norrköping in eastern Sweden burned down in the early hours of Friday morning. READ  

Opinion
'Moving wasn't a choice, Sweden called to me'

'Moving wasn't a choice, Sweden called to me'

Caught in an identity limbo and surrounded by often apathetic "love refugees", The Local's resident Swedophile Solveig Rundquist wonders if she's the only expat who moved to Sweden for the culture alone. READ  

Swedish inmates to receive digital tablets
Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

Swedish inmates to receive digital tablets

Sweden's Prison and Probation Services are beginning a project in which suspected criminals will be given surf tablets to look at evidence against them. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Top ten Swedish taboos
Society
Seven-year-old Swede cycles to Berlin
Politics
'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'
Society
Swedes voted 'most beautiful' in the Nordics
Business & Money
Sweden demands EU clarity on Bitcoin tax
Blog updates

24 July

Sharing our Pride: Celebrating Love & the LGBT Community! (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"It’s mid- July in Stockholm, and with much of the city on vacation, things can seem a little quiet – the streets, the bus, and the grocery store. One thing that has not paused for a summer break, though, is preparation for Stockholm’s Pride Festival, which will take place from July 28 to August 2...." READ »

 

22 July

Det (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! “Det” is a personal pronoun that can be used in many ways, and it might me confusing if you always translate “det” to English “it”. In this article I will do my best to guide you to how to use “det”. Det replacing a word, a phrase or a clause Let us begin with the less confusing..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Swedish organic sales enjoy 'amazing' growth
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Society
What's On in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching July 23
National
Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'
Business & Money
New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries
Gallery
People-watching Båstad
Business & Money
Sweden falls to third in global innovation index
Society
Swedish ornithologists keep webcam watch
Photo: Andreas Nordström/Image Bank Sweden
Gallery
Top ten Swedish beach hot spots
Tech
Swedish Wiki vet sets new content record
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån
Lifestyle
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching July 15-16
Photo: Ola Ericson/Image Bank Sweden
Society
What's On in Sweden
Photo: Lisa Mikulski
National
Hope springs eternal for expat pet shop owner
Gallery
Princess Estelle steals limelight at mum's birthday
National
Swedes risk infants' lives by covering up prams
National
Swede runs for office just using Bitcoin funds
Gallery
People-watching July 11-13
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Housing in Stockholm
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

733
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN
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:
http://psdmedia.se