According to ICRW (2010), early marriage is a global phenomenon which is mostly a major challenge in Asia and Africa. However, the factors that influence or cause marriage vary from one country to another. Many researchers have shown that early marriage is very common among females than among their male counterpart.
This study will firstly focus basically on the following causes of early marriage which includes: poverty, lack of education, religion, traditional and cultural factors and social and peer pressure factors. It will further explain the people’s awareness of the consequences of early marriage, the strategies put to reduce the prevalence of early marriages and lastly the summary of the literature review.
2.3.1 Causes of Early Marriage
According to Birech (2013), girls in India just grow up with a mindset of getting marriage early within a socially determined social frame and this is similar to the girls in Yemen. Carla (2009) states that almost half of Yemen girls get married before the age of eighteen (18). The legal minimum age for marriage in Yemen is fifteen (15) years of age but though there are girls that get married at the onset of puberty as early as eight (8) years old.
The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW, 2010) established that most African country’s legal age of marriage is not clearly defined and most girls get married just after their onset mensuration and depending on their physical maturity. These young girls seem to have a variety of reasons upon which they engage in early marriage hence this literature review will explore the following reasons.
Poverty can be both a cause and consequence of early marriage in most developing countries hence the following literature focuses on it as the cause of early marriage.
Nour (2009) indicates that poverty is one of the major causes of early marriage in the world in that the social economic status of parent’s causes of early marriage in that the parents believe that marrying off their girl child will secure the child’s financial security as well as reducing the economic burden daughters place on the family.
According to some traditions, girl children are considered costly to feed, cloth, and educate and they eventually leave the household. Verma and Srinivasan (2014) also agrees that poverty is a major cause of early marriage among the other reasons. Poverty is seen as a main cause in that if a parent doesn’t have the funds to support the girl’s well-being, the girl will leave the household in search for the better life.
Birech (2013) further agrees that early marriage is caused due to the family’s limited resources who often opt to marry off a girl at an early age in order to earn some income or wealth. Marriage in some countries is seen as an economic transaction. Birech also learns that in most poor communities especially in Africa, bride wealth is linked to marriage and if a family is poor, this practice encourages a child to engage in early marriage.
Bride wealth is referred to as the source of wealth and prestige when given in the form of livestock such as cattle, goats, and sheep among others. There are certain areas where, the more livestock an individual has, the wealthy they become hence they will gain more respect from the people. This has brought about parents marrying off their children to gain respect in the community.
According to Nasrina and Rahman (2012), he sees early marriage to be mainly prevalent in areas that are the slum, for example, a slum area in Rajshahi city of Bangladesh. According to their study, they concluded that there is a relationship between monthly income and early marriage. Bangladesh is one of the largest Muslim countries in the world which practice high early marriage and this is all related to the level of monthly income in the households but apart from that, religion is also another factor that influences early marriage.
International Center of Rights for Women further stipulates on poverty being the cause of early marriage by explaining that some families that are poor tend to sell their children into marriage either to settle debts or to make some money and escape the cycle of poverty. According to their findings, there are times were most parents find themselves in positions where they fail to support the children in terms of school hence the girls in this situation are the most vulnerable to being involved in early marriage. Girls in areas where early marriage is common have no careers to look forward to because marriage is considered as an ultimate goal and early marriage is seen as a way the girl can quickly adapt to family life and responsibility.
The World Vision Report (2016) also found that early marriage is associated with poverty; hence in Zambia, it is seen as a rural phenomenon. According to World Vision Report, it was discovered that due to poverty, many parents withdraw their daughters from school and offer them in marriage to older men in exchange for payment of ‘lobola’ (a dowry for the bride).
According to the Zambian Government Survey (2011), they also note that poverty is one of the strong factors that cause early marriage in Zambia. And this is because most families especially in the rural areas, have no reasonable income to support the families. Not less than twenty-five percent of the people live on less than two US Dollars per day. It is such kind of households that mostly give away their girl children in exchange for money irrespective of their age.
A bride price is an amount that is paid by the groom to the parents of a bride for the groom to be given consent to marrying their daughter. It is believed that the younger the bride, the higher the price she may fetch. This practice is then seen as a way out from poverty or simply some parents just use it as a sources of income.
Lack of Education
According to the UNICEF report (2011), it’s been noted that lack of education is one of the most important factors that cause a high number of early marriage. This is so for most girls that are exposed and not attending school, they most likely end up engaging in sex for various reasons such as economic benefit, experimenting, and many other reasons which makes them end in marriages they are not even ready for. Mutyaba (2011) also agrees to this in that this kind of behavior of parents not valuing education can cause many young girls enter marriage at a tender age when they just fall pregnant. The parents mostly decide to marry off the girl if the person responsible for the pregnancy accepts their responsibility hence age for the girl doesn’t matter to these kind of parents. (Assessment of the situation of girls in Zimbabwe, 2011.)
The lack of education has caused many young people in engaging in early marriages. There are some parents who have also lost control over their children because they lack education too, hence they do not see the value of education. If the parents have no value for education or maybe have no funds to support their child’s education, this may lead to many children not being educated. If the children are not going to school due to lack of activities, they see marriage as the next thing to do and this causes early marriages (the Government survey Malawi, 2011)
Panos Institute South Africa (PSAF, 2014) also reported that the level of education has an influence on early marriage and that the limited access to formal education for many children leaves them impoverished and thus vulnerable. This is because, without education, many girl children have limited options for survival hence end up in early marriage with the hope of social and economic liberalization under the guardian of a husband.
UNFPA (2013) states that ignorance sometimes plays a major role in causing early marriage. Some parents often feel safer and better to give away their young daughter in marriage in order to avoid the shame of the daughter getting pregnant out of wedlock. This is so because these parents are mostly not educated hence they do not know the value of education rather they marriage as a very successful step on can take.
According to the Young Women Christian Association in Mongu District (YWCA, 2015), it’s been noted that it is due the lack of boarding schools and boarding facilities that has contributed to the high prevalence of early marriage. YWCA regional coordinator stated that the limited number of secondary school spaces and the high tuition fees contributes to a girl child dropping out of school due to lack of funds. And due to lack of alternatives, the only easy option for them is getting married.
Traditions, Cultures, and Religions
Nangoma (2013) states that traditional practices such as the initiation ceremonies have an influence on early marriage. The examples of such practices include ‘Chinamwali and Nyau’ of Eastern Province in Zambia. These ceremonies tend to influence the young people to desire marriages as they feel ready for marriage after the rites and end up getting married at a very tender age.
This is also agreed by a key informant from FAWEMA, an organization working to end early marriage who reported that the girls at the age of 12/13 years old engage in transactional sex after going through the puberty rites of passage called Chinamwali as well as Kusasa fumbi. When these girls get pregnant out of teenage sex, the parents end up forcing them to get married which leads to early marriage.
There is also another practice called the kutomera, this is where children get into pre-arranged marriages. It is noted that most cultural practices in Malawi encourage young girls aged between 10/12 and 15 years to undergo a puberty rite which she has to sleep with a male older than her to “dust off” after which she is considered a mature woman (Stephenson R et al, 2012).
Gillian et al (2015), agrees to Stephenson’s argument on the initiation ceremonies being one of the causes of early marriage because it includes preparations of children for marriage. He states that the children are often initiated at the age of 12 years and this initiation training creates an attitude that such children are ready for marriage. Hence these children see themselves as mature and old enough to get married even at a very tender age.
The girls are mostly married off at an early age due to some beliefs in many rural communities in Zambia which believe that early marriage prevents pre-marital sex. Many societies prize virginity before marriage especially the Bemba culture and this can manifest in a number of practices designed to protect a girl from unsanctioned sexual activity (http:/www.projectluangwa.org/sites).
Most cultural practices across the globe have a share in the prevalence of early marriage. There is a cultural practice done in Zimbabwe called the chiramu which encourages sexual play between a girl and her sister’s husband and as well a practice for the appeasement for the murder called kuripa Ngozi by giving a virgin to the aggrieved family. The other practice called the chimutsa maphihwa involves the giving away of the young sister to a deceased woman as a wife replacement to the widower. Even though the government prohibits such cultural practices they are still prevalent in many areas and the girls are largely powerless to challenge them which in turn leads to early marriage (Research and Advocacy Unit, 2014).
And since traditions and cultures are the most integral components of many societies, marrying off young girls is part of the traditions. Women and girls in some societies due to traditions, cultures are often viewed as “second-class citizens” inferior to men hence this has created unequal status and power relations between the sexes and ages in Zambia. Women and girl’s duties are for the kitchen rather than education hence the parents see it better for a girl child to be married off early rather than being taken to school. It is of these cultures, religion, and traditions which devalue women and the girls and discriminate against them which have caused early marriage (PSAF, 2014).
PSAF, (2014) further explains that the cultural and traditional practices dictate the kind of information that is shared between the sexes and different age groups. This then has led to the freedom of information and expression which limits the accurate information that will help people make informed decisions for themselves and in the best interest of their children.
UNICEF (2015) reported on the issue of early marriage stating that gender discrimination manifests itself in different forms, for example, domestic violence, lack of access to information and healthcare and this comes in all due to early marriage.
As a result of cultures, traditions, and beliefs that deny the women or girls their rights to have an equal role in the homes and communities. Women or girls mostly occupy the lower level status than men in the societies. Though the gender roles vary from one society to another, gender norms in the Sub Saharan Africa have generally disadvantaged women of all ages because most parents would prefer educating a boy child rather than a girl child. Hence it is for this reason that most girls or women in the African societies get married early for it is the reason they were born for. (Breaking Vows: Early marriage and Girls’ Education 2011).
The Muslim’s law (2013) also agrees that early marriage is very common because of gender inequality. The law states that girls and women are perceived as commodities who are unable to make decisions about who and when to marry. Hence the girls and women are forced to become brides because it is easier to control them and this increases the early marriage existence. Birech (2013), also adds that most African and Asian society’s see women be inferior who cannot make decisions on their own or take care of themselves hence they should be under the care and control of a man.
PSAF (2014) also noted that certain sections of the Zambian communities especially those in remote areas view women and girls as second-class citizens as inferior to men. It is due to this that there has been unequal status and public relations between the sexes and ages in Zambia hence men or parents do not see the use in educating girl children. It is for this reason that girls instead of going to school are made to stay at home and end up getting married at a very tender age adding to the prevalence of early marriage.
Protection of the Girl
According to Birech (2013), the girl’s virginity in India is of high value such that any girl that breaks her virginity before marriage will become a laughing stock and shame will be cast on her family. Hence, marrying a girl young presumes that the girl’s family honor will be protected by ensuring that the girl marries as a virgin. It is for this reason that the young girls are married off at a young age to save the family from shame and the parent’s aim is to control the girl child.
Walker (2012) explained that the birth of a girl child in India does not bring in any celebration because a girl is seen as a burden, given the fact that they will get married soon and leave the natal family. Girls are mostly married off at a young age for some reason of assurance of virginity at marriage.
Peer Pressure and Teenage Pregnancy
According to the study done by UNICEF (2013), early marriage is most common among peers because it is as a result of teenage pregnancy. And this teenage pregnancy which is from another wide topic is caused by peer pressure from fellow teenagers in engaging in sexual relations. Due to the pregnancy, their parents or they themselves would prefer marriage so as the child should have both parents.
According to the research done in Chadiza District of Eastern Province of Zambia, it was discovered that pregnancies occurred among girls as young as 12 years. Therefore, the girls who got pregnant would probably drop out from school and engage into an early marriage with the view that marriage is the best alternative to take care of themselves and their children (Nangoma, 2013).
Nasrim and Rahman (2012) state that early marriages are more prevalent among the young girls in rural areas where they still believe in certain traditions and norms. For example, in a certain rural area in Bangladesh, the children get to get married at a young age due to social pressure. If the marriage of the pubescent girl is delayed, her parents and sometimes the girl herself are made to feel guilty.
Birech (2013), argues that most girls in India grow up with a mindset of marriage within a socially determined social frame hence almost half of the women in the age group of 20-24 years get married before the age of 18. The mindset of girls has been polluted because of the majority of what is happening in the society. There are cases where a young girl is not married and a lot of her peers are married hence due to that, the girl will feel pressured into getting married even though they are still young.
In Yemen there was a similar situation were approximately half percent of the Yemen girls get married before they reached the age of 18 years old. The legal minimum age in Yemen is at 15 years of age but some girls get married at the onset of puberty as early as 8 years old. (Carla, 2009). Hence it’s also the pollution of their minds in the society that is causing the girls to engage in early marriage.
A report published by the Non-Governmental Organization-Charity Centre for Children and Youth Development in Zambia (2014) explains that most girl children have fallen victims of bad vices that have seen them get married at a tender age. Most parents have resulted in marrying off their girl children as a source of their livelihood and some even removing their children from school. Surprisingly, the parents even take pride in seeing their children get married at a tender age for fear of the falling pregnant.
2.3.2 Awareness about the Consequences of Early Marriage.
Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAF,2014), submits that the lack of information for parents and community on early marriage, dangers of child marriages, harmful cultural practices, importance of education for both girls and boys, respect for children’s rights and other such relevant information makes children vulnerable to abuse and to early marriages in Zambia.
PSAF further added that the lack of formal education, lack of information limits the options for survival available to children. The importance of access to information in eradicating child marriages, therefore, cannot be overemphasized. The failure of these girls and their families to access information that would help them mitigate the threats to their lives aggravates the dangers.
Adebambo (2010) states that there are very few works of literature that give statistics on what has been done so far in terms of sensitizing the communities on the rightful age at which a person can get married. Marriages, especially in rural areas, are characterized by parents making a decision on behalf of their children for who to marry, and when to marry and this is so because the parents and the children are not aware of the effects of early marriage.
2.3.3 Measures Put to Address the Causes of Early Marriage.
The government of Zambia adopted a five-year national action plan to end child marriage. The Zambian civil society including Zambia ending child marriage NGO network was an instrument used in the initiation of the development of the national strategy and providing input into the content. The Ministry of Gender is responsible for the implementation of the action plan in order to eradicate or reduce early marriage prevalence (Girls, not Brides, 2016).
The Zambian government has instituted some measures to address early marriage practices by launching a multi-stakeholder anti-child marriage campaign. Some structures including a civil society coalition against child marriage which have been put to fight early marriage in Zambia. Not to forget, a ten-member ministerial committee led by the Ministry of Gender, a draft policy on ending child marriage as well as the National Strategy on Ending Child Marriage for the period of 2016 to 2021. All these are the efforts put in place to eradicate early marriage and they need support and acceleration for them to work effectively (Policy Brief: Child Marriage in Zambia, 2015).
The Civil Society in Zambia have been working together and have formed a national movement to end child marriage. The coalition of civil society organizations is part of the global movement of Girls Not Brides. On 12th April 2013 the Civil Society Organizations joined hands with government to launch a national campaign against child marriages, Zambia’s First Lady officiated at the launch which was held in Eastern Zambia which is the area with the highest incidences of early and forced marriage (Girls, not Brides, 2013).
Senior Chief Chiwala of the Lamba people of Masaiti District engaged the Police Victim Support Unit (VSU) of the Zambia Police Service to sensitize his people in the chiefdom on early marriages. The chief was very concerned about the increasing number of early marriages in his chiefdom and after a tour around his chiefdom, he discovered that most people lack awareness on things such as early marriages, gender-based violence, and defilement.
Hence his appeal is for the Government to move in and help their chiefdom in the fight against such vices. The people in the chiefdom were sensitized about such vices were against the law and that those found wanting would be arrested so that they could face the wrath of the law (Girls, not Brides, 2013).
On 21st November 2013 the Post Newspaper reported that Chief Singani of the Tonga people in Choma District had retrieved young girls aged 12 and 13 from marriages and surrendered their parents to the police for encouraging early marriages, this decision was taken in order to send a message to many people who are in the habit of treating their girls as a source of income. The Chief also made a declaration in his chiefdom saying that no child will be forced into early marriage because it is wrong and unlawful.
Apart from these initiatives by the chiefs, the Zambian government Survey (2011) reported that a comprehensive law was passed for the Anti-Gender Based Violence Act which criminalizes the acts of a child, early and forced marriage. The Government has also put in place institutions like the Victim Support Unit of the Zambia Police Service which focusses on cases of gender-based violence as well as the Ministry of Gender which has put in place a Gender Policy that is being implemented to achieve gender equality and vices like child early and forced marriage are thought to be impediments to gender equality (The anti-gender-based violence act, 2011).
Zambia has also signed and ratified international, regional and sub-regional conventions, treaties and protocols like the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) whose guiding principle and spirit is the best interest of the child, and obligates states to protect children from such vices as child, early and forced marriage and to take positive action to promote their rights. Zambia has also joined the party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which it has domesticated, the African Women’s Protocol on the Rights of Women and the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. All these instruments require the government to put in measures to end child early and forced marriages (Girls not Brides, 2016).
The government revised the marriage Act that will describe a child as any person under the age of 21. According to Minister of Gender Victoria Kalima, the law will have to be harmonized to make it effective in the fight against vices such as early marriages and defilement. Ms. Kalima says that at the moment the law describes a child as anyone under the age of 16 while any person can marry at the age of 18. The marriage bill is before the ministry of justice and will soon be presented to the parliament. Once the bill is passed, it will be illegal for anyone to marry or have carnal knowledge of a person under the age of 21.
The government has taken the root of sensitizing the people about effects of early marriages because the people seem to not be aware of these things hence the minister of Gender and Child Development Nkandu Luo has issued warnings against parents in Mafinga district in Muchinga province to desist from marrying off their young girls. She says as a medical expert, the effects of girls getting married early is that when they get pregnant they experience a lot of complications when delivering babies because the birth canal is not mature enough to deliver birth safely. This sensitization campaign was actually done in about seven districts in Muchinga province (All Africa News on June 16, 2015).
According to UNICEF Data (2018) one in three girls in low- to middle-income countries marry before the age of eighteen (18) because of being illiterate of the human rights and not valuing education. Therefore, having access to both primary and secondary education will improve their chances of both girls and boys to have access to employment and a means of supporting themselves and then, in turn, their families. Reaching out to communities will help challenge traditional and discriminatory views on access to education.
2.3.3 Strategies to Address the Problem of Early Marriage
According to the ICRW, the practice of early marriage is still very common in developing countries. The only way that early marriage can be reduced or done away with is by the following five ways explored by the African Exponent.
Educating the girls
The global evidence suggests that if the girl is kept in school, it can reduce on early marriage. The government and its stakeholders suggest that there should be a reduction in teenage pregnancy by ensuring that there is comprehensive sexuality education as well as creating incentives to keep the girls in school (Policy Brief: Child Marriage in Zambia, 2015)
According to different researchers, it’s been noted that most girls are married off while young are those that come from societies that do not value education. And since girls are the most vulnerable in cases to do early marriage, educating them will a solution. Because when a girl child is not educated, she will probably be illiterate and will have little or no understanding of her human rights. If the girls have access to primary and secondary education, it will improve their chances of access to employment and a means of sustaining themselves as well as their families. This will actually kill two birds with one stone because if the girls are employed, this will initially help in eradicating poverty for the present and future generation (https://googleweblight.com).
In many countries where there are high rates of early marriage, girls as seen as a burden. There are societies where girls or women are viewed as secondary in that their duties are to be doing house chores and not schooling. Due to this girls often grow up with low self-esteem as they feel they are unable to do a lot of things. Warner et al. (2011), state that it is for this reason that girl empowerment programs must be put in place in order to reduce early marriages by improving the girl’s self-efficacy.
Warner (2011) further states that the girls can be taught some skills and support networks by enhancing the accessibility and quality of formal schooling for girls and offer economic support and incentives for the girls and their families to keep the girls in school or marry later. This can be done by teaching the girls about the basic human rights as well as the legal rights to refuse a marriage. Sex education is also another program to be conducted as well as the health education. The other empowering activities include offering opportunities to gain skills and education (Girls not Brides)
A report done by the African Exponent (2015) states that there are parents that are still very traditional and still believe in child marriage is a way of protecting their daughter economically and from premarital sex which is still a taboo in many countries. It is very unfortunate that parents don’t know the detrimental effect on early marriages. The early pregnancies which also normally come after a child is married off also has its complications because the girl’s body is not ready for childbirth.
Therefore, if the parents are educated about these effects of early marriage, there will be a fewer number of early marriage cases. In Zambia, there is already an example of chief Nzamane of the Mfumbeni tribe who is working with the parents of girls at risk of being sold for lucrative dowries. He understands the financial pressures these parents are facing and find ways to help them stay financially stable without selling off their daughters.
Provide Relevant Economic Support
Poverty is one the most common reasons why parents end up forcing their young daughters into early marriage. Some parents may actually know about the effects of early marriage but because selling their children due to the lack of finances for their upkeep. They believe that the dowry payments from the marriage of an older sister might be essential in ensuring the survival of the younger children and the whole family (The African Exponent, 2015)
The government can start providing economic support to families through social cash transfer so that the parents should not sell off their children for their survival. This will help parents stand firm in their decision of not marrying off their children early.
Clearly Defined Laws against Early Marriage
The Zambian government has two laws concerning marriage. There’s customary law which is based on values and community systems and statutory law marriage which states that for one to marry or get married, they must have attained twenty-one (21) years of age and if below must get parental consent. This is a problem because it does not specify the threshold below twenty-one (21) years at which consent from parents is not acceptable (Policy Brief: child Marriage in Zambia, 2016).
Therefore both customary and statutory laws on marriage must be harmonized and clearly stated in order to remove some laws that are discriminatory against girls and women. In order to end the early marriage, the customary marriage law must be consistent with the constitution and there is need to adopt the Southern African Development Community (SADC) model law. The Zambia marriage act must be amended and adopt a policy that clearly defines marriage and prohibits early marriage.
The chiefs must also be incorporated in the fight too early marriage so that their chiefdoms may experience development. If the government and the traditional leaders work hand in hand, the problem of early marriage will easily be solved because the traditional leaders have direct control over the people in the rural areas as well as towns.
The aim of this study was to investigate the causes of early marriage as identified in the literature. The studies done by other researchers were used to explain on the causes of early marriage, the people’s awareness on the consequences of early marriage, the measures put in to solve the problem of early marriage and the strategies that can be used to reduce on the prevalence of early marriages.
Looking at the information collected, most developing countries seem to be having the similar challenge though with both varying and similar information on what causes the early marriage problem. The most noticed and major problem in all these countries is poverty, lack of education, cultures, and traditions. These seem to be the main issues faced in all these countries hence it is the duty of the government to work with other governments as well as the chiefs in the country in order to combat early marriage.
Based on the different researchers, the problem is very common in the rural areas and since this has been established, many researchers have not taken interest in investigating what could be the causes of early marriage in the urban area.in as much as rural areas have the highest levels of child marriage, it may also be the same case in the urban areas because of rural migration. Therefore, the researchers should as well find the root causes of early marriage in the urban areas too.