According to the report worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children. More than one in three or some 250 million women and girls experience violence in their lifetime.
Violence against women and girls is a global scourge that affects millions of women every year. In fact, child marriage is a manifestation of that violence.
Yes it is well known that girls who marry before they turn 18 are less likely to remain in school and more likely to experience domestic violence.
But experience in Zanzibar, Tanzania’s semi-autonomous island is different.Research findings by Tanzania Media Women Association—TAMWA revealed a disturbing state of women and a girl child who have been exposed to gender based violence and as well child marriage.
“We recognized the need to introduce a special programme –Gender Equality and Women Empowerment (GEWE) between 2012 through 2014. We have seen positive results of the programme,” the programme coordinator Mzuri Issa says
The programme was being implement in six areas of Wete district in Pemba by the organisation in collaboration with its development partners—Denmark government among others.
“We were focusing at increasing public awareness on the impact of gender based violence to the family level, community and the nation at large,” she added.
A member of the implementing team, Mauwa Said Khamis admits during the initial hours when introducing the programme in the area, there were at least more than 10 cases relating to gender violence being reported and now have dropped to less than 5 last year.
Young teenage girls are more likely to die due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth than women in their 20s; their infants are more likely to be stillborn or die in the first month of life.
Northern Pemba Regional Commissioner Omar Khamis Othuman said the programme being implemented by Tanzania Media Women Association has brought about positive changes in the region.
“We need to integrate the same programme in the entire island to ensure we protect a girl child,” he said.
He said empowering girls and women and ensuring girls and boys are healthy is at the government top priority.
The regional commissioner maintained that girls who marry as children are particularly at risk of violence from their partners or their partners’ families.
“We need to safeguard them from social violence to promote social-equity,” he said adding should they (girls and women) become vulnerable --They are consistently more likely to be beaten or threatened by their husbands than girls who marry later.
The government adopted several legislations including the constitution which calls for rights of men and women, boys and girls.
Othuman informed “The greater the age difference between girls and their husbands, the more likely they are to experience intimate partner violence.”
Psychologists had it that married to much older men, child brides are more likely to believe that a man is sometimes justified in beating his wife than women who marry later.
Reports indicate 44 percent of girls aged 15-19 globally think a husband or a partner is justified in hitting or beating his wife or partner in certain circumstances. In Africa and the Middle East, this figure is above half.
A study in northern Ethiopia for instance revealed that 81percent of child brides interviewed described their sexual initiation as forced. In India, they were 3 times as likely to report being forced to have sex as girls who married later.
Studies have also found that child brides typically continue to experience non-consensual sex throughout their marriage.