Target: Joyce Banda, President of Malawi
Goal: Encourage a marriage law that would prevent child marriage epidemic
In Malawi, one out of every two girls will be married before her 18th birthday. Without a proposed marriage law, girls as young as nine are forced into loveless unions in efforts to escape their impoverished lives and help out their financially strapped families.
According to The Human Rights Watch, child and forced marriages result in high levels of illiteracy, maternal deaths and worsening poverty. Many girls are encouraged to drop out of school at a young age to marry in order for their families to receive hefty dowries. Others too young to give birth often die due to complications and lack of medical attention. And, girls who fail to become pregnant or are undesired by their spouses are sent back to their families where they face shame and, ultimately, abandonment — perpetuating their already dire situations.
Child marriage exposes young girls and women to unnecessary pressure and violence. In The Human Rights Watch report entitled “‘I’ve Never Experienced Happiness’: Child Marriage in Malawi” more than 80 girls detail the shocking manipulation and coercion they endure family members – engaging in sexual relations in exchange for food, money or even shelter. These girls also experience an alarmingly high rate of sexual and domestic violence brought on by their spouses or even family members.
By instating a marriage law that fixed the minimum age of marriage for girls and boys to 18, child marriage would be abolished, young girls would have the freedom of staying in school to obtain an education and the urge to exploit girls and women to escape impoverished lives would lessen. Although Malawi faces urgent economic challenges, girls and women shouldn’t be subjected to unfulfilling lives to resolve these problems. Sign the petition to encourage President Joyce Banda to propose a law to put an end to the child marriage epidemic.
Dear President Joyce Banda,
Child marriages in your country are increasing at an alarming rate due to economic downfalls and lack of education. Girls as young as 9 years old are coerced into marriages, forced to drop out of school and become unhappy teen mothers in exchange for dowries, food, money or even shelter.
A young woman should not have to barter her sexuality to be relieved of an impoverished life. Instead, she should be encouraged to stay in school, get an education and make a better life for herself.
More than 600 minors die in childbirth, 57% of Malawi women are illiterate and countless girls and young women experience unfortunate sexual and domestic violence in their premature marriages. Simply put, this must end. With the implementation of a marriage bill proposing that no girl under the age of 18 be forced to marry these numbers can change dramatically and the livelihoods of these suffering women will improve.
I urge you to recognize the matter at hand as an alarming one and put a stop to the child marriage epidemic that’s claiming innocent lives and leaving young girls and women desolate and without hope.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Ferdinand Reus via wikimedia