Somalia passed a bill to legalize child marriage— here's our take
Recently, Somalia passed a bill to legalize child marriage with consent being “the first menstrual cycle.” This bill essentially will allow adults to marry and then rape girls as young as ages 9 - 15. It provides adults with the opportunity to steal a woman’s childhood and expose her to an unhealthy domestic environment. Moreover, girls these ages don’t even have a proper understanding of marriage, let alone sex, therefore, this bill can lead to sexual violence all over the country. According to a United Nations analysis in 2014-15, 45 percent of young women in Somalia were already married or “in union” before age 18. East African nations have high rates of violence against women, including rape and female genital mutilation. Nearly all Somali girls have been forced to undergo one of these traumatic experiences. In 2013, the Somali government agreed with the U.N. to improve it’s sexual violence laws, and this is the bill that they passed after years of work — One that may even encourage sex crimes in a household. It is a clear violation of fundamental human rights and takes the women’s rights movement decades backward. Child marriage can halt one’s development due to social isolation and early pregnancy, which are factors that limit a child’s opportunities for advancement in career and life. “Some 68 percent of more than 300 service providers across the country have reported an increase in gender-based violence, including rape since the pandemic began,” UNFPA said in a report last month. About one-third of respondents, including more than 750 community members said they believed child marriages had increased partially because of economic pressures and because schools have been disrupted. These are not valid reasons to destroy anyone’s life. Save these children. Allow them to have minimal human rights and the same opportunities we take for granted. By allowing the Somali government to pass this law, we are endangering the lives of numerous young children, hindering their growth, and stealing their childhood. We must sign petitions and take action to save the lives of these helpless children.