The Tears of our Sisters

Perpetual Kahindo, Staff Writer

The tears of girls from India, Central Africa Republic, Niger, Chad, Bangladesh, Brazile, Yemen, Ethiopia, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Syria, and Ukraine, can be seen soaking the ground as they prepare for their marriages to men more than ten years their senior. These are child marriages and those countries are just twelve out of 198 that still participate in this heartbreaking practice. 


Unicef says, “Child marriage is a manifestation of gender inequality, reflecting social norms that perpetuate discrimination against girls.” Girls who marry are not only denied their childhood, but they are also denied opportunities for education and employment. Without the hope of an education, the future of these girls is limited to household labor and child-rearing. In these countries, communities struggle to put an end to these harmful traditional struggles that have been their cultural norm. Their young age leaves them vulnerable in the hands of their older spouse and if they attempt to flee back to their families, they are returned and if they flee elsewhere, they endanger themselves to trafficking. 


In most cases, these girls are married off due to the financial problems their parents have. To many parents in countries with high child marriage rates, having their daughters married off means one less mouth for them to feed. Take Nujood Ali for example, who was married off at the tender age of ten to a man three times her age. She was a child who loved ‘Tom & Jerry’ Cartoons, school and playing with her siblings. Her marriage is not shocking considering there are countless girls married off before their 18th birthday in Yemen. For instance, Nujood’s neighbor was married off at 13 and became a mother of four before her 18th birthday. After getting forcefully married and assaulted by her husband, Nujood pleaded with her parents and relatives for help but they commanded her to honor her marriage and turned their backs on her. Hopeless but eager to escape the clutches of her abusive husband, the ten-year-old child found courage within herself and took the moment her husband wasn’t looking and ran out of the house. 


As if leaving the house alone without a male companion isn’t normal itself, Nujood dared to then take a bus then a taxi all the way to the courthouse. She spent the whole morning in the courthouse until a judge finally noticed her and was astounded by her young age and courage. Nujood was granted a divorce which went down in Yemen’s history. Three other child brides became inspired by her story and sought a divorce for themselves as well. Nujood went back to school like she hoped to do so and even wrote her own book about her survival of child marriage.


On the other side of the world, in America is a similar story. Although child marriages are rare, they are still happening under our noses. I asked Senior Courtni Daniels if she knew of this and she replied with, “No, I didn’t know that child marriages are happening in America. Maybe in other countries, yes, but not in ours. I thought it was illegal.“ Child marriages are legal in 46 states, and 20 states do not require any minimum age for marriage with a parental or judicial waiver. Only Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and Minnesota have set the minimum age 18 and all exceptions. Indy100 reports that “almost 40,000 children were married off in Texas between 2011 and 2014.” The highest incidents of child marriages are found in West Virginia, Florida, Texas, Nevada, Oklahoma, California, and Tennessee. 


In 2019, NBC News did a special on Genevive Meyer’s story about how she became a bride at just 15 to a 43-year-old man. The American teen’s wedding was officiated in Jackson, Mississippi the Spring of 1995. Meyer describes her sorrowful childhood which was filled with abusive adults and trauma. When her family moved to a trailer park, the lonely teen befriended John Malloy a twice-divorced father of two. The two got close until Malloy attempted to kiss the 14-year-old teen scaring her and chasing her away from him. But one day when Meyer was lonely, she rang up her old friend but unbeknownst to her, her mother was listening to the whole conversation. She got Malloy arrested, but soon after she dropped the charges and forced her daughter to get married to the man who was old enough to be her father. Ashley had to wait until she was 18 to legally file for divorce and then she, later on, went to get a bachelor’s in social work and a master’s in business. In May of 2019, she formed a foundation to educate people about child marriages and human trafficking. 


I asked senior Cynthia Kuria why everyone must join the fight against child marriages and she said, “I think everyone should because it’s not fair that these children don’t get to enjoy their childhood because they have to be stressed about marriage and raising kids.“ All these stories have ended happily, but what about the ones we don’t know about? The ones who end up miserable? It’s more than just being aware of this human rights violation, it’s about doing more research, spreading the information, and finding a way where we can be the voice for our sisters who weep for help all over this Earth. Let us not stop until every ear has heard the haunting stories of these girls and their tears flow no more.