THE BLOG

The Practice of Child Brides

12/13/2012 12:50 pm ET | Updated Feb 12, 2013
  • Gordon Brown Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; UN Special Envoy for Global Education
AP

After the tragic news this week of 16-year-old Shiwa Hasmi of Bardiya district in Nepal, I am asking governments and the UN to enforce laws against child marriage and in favour of universal education for girls. Shiwa died in hospital after being set on fire following her refusal to be forced into a child marriage against her will.

She died at Bir Hospital in Kathmandu on Wednesday while undergoing treatment for ninety percent burns inflicted on her by an enraged suitor who sprinkled petrol on her body when she was fast asleep in her house on December 9.

Our New Year's resolution for 2013 must be to bring to an end the barbaric practice of forcing young girls to become child brides in loveless marriages against their choosing.

Tragically, Shiwa died suffering from her terrible wounds. She spent two days in a local hospital without enough money to pay for her treatment before the government stepped in. But it was already too late to save her by the time she was flown to the specialist Bir Hospital in Kathmandu.

Child marriage has been outlawed in most countries but enforcement of the law is so poor that girls are expected to comply with demands they become child brides. They are unable to stand up and say they want to continue their education and be at school.

Some 10 million girls a year are married off as child brides and are denied their chance of schooling. It is one of the principal reasons why 32 million girls are not at school. One survey has suggested that in the next decade more than 100 million girls will be taken out of school and married off against their will.

If every girl is to go to school then we will have to end the practice of child brides. Universal education is not possible until children are able to grow up as girls -- not brides.

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