Forced and Child Marriage Prevention

Forced and child marriages are widespread, yet many local efforts to prevent these marriages have been successful. Crisis lines, women’s shelters, schools, groups or clubs for girls, and even monetary incentives have all proved effective in postponing marriages for girls and helping to stop forced marriages.

The Life Skills Program run by the Institute for Health Management provides a one year life skills course for young women and girls in the Maharashtra region ofIndia. The course focuses on self-sufficiency and encourages parents to actively participate. Since the introduction of the course, the median age at marriage for the region has risen from 14.5 years to 17 years. Also in the regions of Rajasthan, Karnataka and Haryana, India, a small sum is deposited in a savings account at the birth of a daughter into a low-income family. If the girl reaches 18 and is unmarried, she may then collect the sum.

In Bangladesh, a secondary school scholarship program for girls was introduced in the early 1990s. To participate, parents had to sign a contract promising their daughters would not marry before age 18. Schools waived fees for books and school fees, and parents received some compensation for the diminished agricultural production resulting from the loss of the daughter’s labor. The program has seen great success in postponing marriages.

In Ethiopia, girls’ clubs have been set up to educate girls about the harmful effects of child marriage as well as the importance of education. Girls in trouble frequently report plans of an child marriage to friends or the head of the club or women’s association. Also in Ethiopia, local organizations form “child marriage cancellation committees” involving people from all sectors of society. When the committee is informed of an child marriage arrangement, they alert law enforcement or assist with legal representation.

Such programs have emboldened girls to take action on their own behalf.  There have been reports of cases where a victim’s classmates, hearing of a forced or child marriage of a peer, have lobbied against it and even sent petitions to local law enforcement.