Addis Ababa — Early marriage is the worst human right abuse that can happen to children and remains world's single largest act of cruelty, a study by a senior councillor at the Population Council disclosed yesterday.
Presenting the results of the study on the threats of early marriage at a workshop on Wednesday, Judith Bruce, Associate Councillor of the New York-based Population Fund said that given the current trend, 100 million girls will be married under age in Africa over the next ten years The Councillor talked about early marriage in terms of its harmful impacts and the face of HIV epidemic which she said, "is increasingly young, poor and female." "This is threatening the poorest, youngest, and least powerful segments of society, composed of individuals with limited social and economic assets, unable to avoid or mitigate the effects of or leave unsafe sexual relations," she pointed out.
The councillor also indicated that hundreds of millions of poor and socially excluded girls were at "significant" risk of sexual exploitation, economically-driven and forced sexual relations, and child marriage, all factors that "put them at increased risks of contracting HIV in the continent." "In Ethiopia for instance," she said citing a 2005 survey, "31percent of the girls in rural areas and 10.1 percent in urban areas were f married by age 15." She said the Amhara region was found to be with highest rate of 45.8 percent prevalence of sexual exploitation with early marriage; followed by Afar and Tigray, respectively with 29.9 and 28.9 percents of prevalence rates.
The country is among those in Africa with higher number of abused status of Adolescent girls and young women with Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, abduction, rape and polygamy, the Councillor indicated.
According to the National Adolescent and Youth Reproductive Health Strategy, a 2007-2015publication launched a day before the workshop, abduction, which is a forceful seizure of a young girl for marriage, is common in certain parts of Ethiopia, especially in Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region, SNNPR and Oromiya, where the prevalence is as high as 13 percent and 11 percent each respectively.
A study conducted in six-peri urban areas in Ethiopia found that 9 percent of sexually active adolescent girls and 6 percent adolescent boys had been raped.
The Population Council was founded in 1952 as an international, non-profit, non governmental organization guided by an international board with representatives from the developing regions.