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How child marriages lead to risky health behaviours ?

Child marriage has long-term physical, psychological, and economic impacts on both girls and boys.

2023 Feb 03, 8:53, Kathmandu

Although the negative effects of child marriage have been studied in a variety of domains, evidence on the relationship between child marriage and health behaviors over the life course is limited. So the question still remains if there is a relationship between childhood marriage and adult tobacco use, one of the most prevalent dangerous health behaviours!

Poonam Biswokarma has been married for 20 years at the age of 17. She states that despite numerous campaigns against child marriage in her village not much has changed.

While Nepal long had anti-child marriage laws and outreach campaigns, national data show that child marriages are especially common in village areas. Experts attribute the reason to persistent poverty and illiteracy.

Aid agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have launched extensive shaming campaigns to put an end to the practice. However, experts say that such tactics have fallen short, and that new efforts to combat poverty and discrimination are required to end Nepal's child marriage epidemic.

Child marriages are distinguished by spousal age gaps, power imbalances, social isolation, and a lack of female autonomy; all of these have been identified as risk factors for intimate partner violence (IPV) and may represent potential causal mechanisms.

It's possible that the same inequitable gender norms that lead to child marriages also contribute to violence. Men who marry very young girls are more likely to hold traditional masculine ideologies and, as a result, to abuse their wives. Child brides are also frequently given away or sold.

Dr. Sarita Sharma explains how child marriage affect health in a very detailed way, Child marriage is a harmful practice that places young girls at increased risk for a variety of health problems.

“Girls who marry before the age of 18 are at greater risk for early pregnancy and childbirth complications, sexually transmitted infections, and mental health issues. They are also more likely to experience domestic violence, and are less likely to complete their education or receive medical care. This in turn can lead to further health issues, including malnutrition, poverty, and an increased risk of HIV/AIDS,” she adds.

Dr. Sharma says, “In many cases, girls who marry young are not physically or mentally ready for the demands of marriage and motherhood. This can lead to increased health risks and complications during pregnancy and childbirth, including an increased risk of maternal mortality, obstetric fistula, and neonatal mortality.”

Studies say that 71% of women who married before the age of 15 and lack familiarity before marriage increases marital conflict and increases the risk of subsequent violence.

Additionally, young married girls are more likely to face physical and sexual violence and abuse, and they are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Boys who marry young also face health risks, including an increased risk of alcohol abuse, and mental and physical health problems.

Overall, child marriage has long-term physical, psychological, and economic impacts on both girls and boys. It can limit their educational opportunities, limit their autonomy and right to make decisions, and prevent them from leading a life of their own choosing. It also has a negative impact on their health, safety, and wellbeing, she added.

People ought to know the dire consequences of child marriage and it’s affect on ones mental and physical health. It has long-term emotional and psychological consequences, including an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

What Should be done?

In order to address the problem of child marriage, governments and organizations need to develop comprehensive strategies that focus on prevention, protection, and service provision. This should include creating awareness and education campaigns to inform the public about the harms of child marriage, advocating for legal and policy reforms, and providing support and services to victims of child marriage. In addition, it is important to ensure that there are adequate resources available to support girls and boys who are at risk of or victims of child marriage. This could include providing access to education and vocational training, economic empowerment opportunities, and health services. It is also important to ensure that the victims of child marriage are provided with access to legal support and other social services. Finally, it is important to create a safe and supportive environment for victims and survivors of child marriage. This could include developing support groups and safe spaces for girls and boys to come together, providing counselling, and offering access to medical and psychological care.


Child marriage outreach campaigns national data poverty non-governmental organisations intimate partner violence vocational training economic empowerment opportunities
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