Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Child Brides - Conclusion

Little woman
Child marriage is a worldwide phenomenon but is most prevalent in Africa and Southern Asia and although its practice has decreased somewhat in recent decades, it remains common in, although not only confined to, rural areas and among the most poverty stricken.

In communities where child marriage is practiced marriage is regarded as a transaction, often representing a significant economic activity for a family. A daughter may be the only commodity a family has left to be traded and sometimes girls can be used as currency or to settle debts. A girl's marriage may also take place as a perceived means of creating stability. In uncertain times, poor harvest conditions or war, a family may believe it is necessary to ensure the economical 'safety' of their daughter and family, through marriage.

Dominant notions of morality and honor are important factors encouraging the practice of child marriage. These are influenced great by the importance placed on maintaining 'family honor' and the high value placed on a girl's virginity. It is considered that shame would be cast on a family if a girl were not a virgin when she marries. Therefore, in order to ensure that a girl's virtue remains in tact, girls may be married earlier, in order to ensure their virginity. Young girls may also be encouraged to marry older men, due to the perception that an older husband will be able to act, as a guardian against behavior deemed immoral and inappropriate.
Tender aged bride

Physical: - When a child bride is married she is likely to be forced into sexual activity with her husband, and at an age where the bride is not physically and sexually mature this has severe health consequences.
According to UNFPA (Child Marriage Factsheet, 2005), girls ages l0-14 are five times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than women aged 20-24 and girls aged 15-19 are twice as likely to die. Young mothers face higher risks during pregnancies including complications such as heavy bleeding, obstructed labor, obstetric fistula, infection, anemia, and eclampsia which contribute to higher mortality rates of both mother and child. The age disparity between a child bride and her husband, in addition to her low economic autonomy, further increases a girl's vulnerability to HIV/AIDS.

Psychological and social: - Women who marry early are more likely to suffer abuse and violence, with inevitable psychological as well as physical consequences. The husband’s family as well as the husband himself sometimes perpetrates abuse, and girls that enter families as a bride often become domestic slaves for the in-laws.

Early marriage has also been linked to wife abandonment and increased levels of divorce or separation (UNICEF, Early Marriage: Child, Spouses, 2001) and child brides also face the risk of being widowed by their husbands who are often considerably older. In these instances the wife is likely to suffer additional discrimination as in many cultures divorced, abandoned or widowed women suffer a loss of status, and may be ostracized by society and denied property rights.

Developmental: - Child Marriage also has considerable implications for the social development of child brides, in terms of low levels of education, poor health and lack of agency and personal autonomy.

Large numbers of the girls who drop out of school do so because of early marriage, leaving many women who married early illiterate. Early marriage plans can also discourage a girl's parents from educating their daughter because they believe that a formal education will only benefit her future family in law.

The cyclical nature of early marriage results in a likely low level of education and life skills, increased vulnerability to abuse and poor health, and therefore acute poverty.
What is my destiny?


Education: - Improving access to education and eliminating gender gaps in education are therefore important strategies for ending the practice of child marriage. Repeated studies show:

1.     Girls with a secondary education are up to six times less likely to marry young compared to girls with little or no education.

2.     Education delays the age at which a woman marries.

3.     Education provides an alternative opportunity for girls other than marriage.

4.     Education increases socio-economic status and earning potential for girls.

Poverty Reduction: - The world's poorest countries have the highest rates of child marriage. Families often marry girls off to lessen their economic burden and provide a future for their daughters. Data verifies that:

1.     Girls from poor families are about twice as likely to marry young than girls from better-off households.

2.     Girls who earn a wage may be seen as an economic asset, not a burden, by their families.

3.     Girls who earn a wage are less dependent on others to provide for them.

Engaging Men and Boys: - The involvement of men in supporting local women’s rights efforts has been repeatedly cited in research studies as a critical element of the formula for success in advancing women’s initiatives throughout the developing world.
Involving men in education efforts concerning forced marriage is particularly important for changing customary law.

Changing and Enforcing laws: - Changing the laws that govern women’s lives and enforcing them through well developed legal institutions will eliminate the horror of child marriage. In countries where there are statutory laws that protect women, mending gaps between legal institutions and enforcement of the law should be a priority.
Child marriage is a violation of human rights. Unfortunately very few women are aware that they have rights by the simple fact that they are human beings.

The video below is a true story about Aberash Bekele from Ethiopia. It is a narrative of a young Ethiopian girl who refused to get married.  Aberash is paying a high price for the decision she made but her life changed the lives of Ethiopian women forever.

Tribute to Wangari Maathai - Kenya's Best Known Woman

RIP Dr. Wangari Maathai
Last month I posted a series of stories of Dr. Maathai, not knowing that she was in and out of hospital as she battled ovarian cancer.  On Sunday, September 25, 2011 this dynamic woman who inspired many of us young women succumbed to the cancer. Her death is a loss to so many of us who grew up under the oppressive regime of a despot ruler but learnt that we had a voice and could speak in one voice.

I still remember in the 1980s when Dr. Maathai (known to many of us as Mama Wangari or Mum) led hundreds of mostly women to protest Moi's government plans to erect a 62-story headquarters for the then ruling party. I so wanted to join the protests but was too young and my parents would not hear of it. But I raised my voice even then within the family in support of this amazing woman. She fought the then President Daniel Arap Moi fearlessly even as she campaigned for the environment and women's rights in Kenya. 

She taught and encouraged women to plant trees
Her fortitude and passion inspired a generation of Kenyan activist in the 1990s, particularly women, to believe that even though the Kenyan constitution which then considered women as "second class citizens", our voices could bring down a dictatorship. Her fight and unwavering determination succeeded in forcing changes to policies passed down by government official who until then were not accustomed to being questioned. It was this kind of fight which also won her the first Nobel Peace Prize to be awarded to an African women, in 2004.

She is not only Kenya's best known woman but also a national hero.

Dr. Maathai was the founder of the Green Belt Movement, started in 1977 with the aim of halting widespread deforestation. The organization has grown to become one of the largest grassroots movements in Africa and a vehicle for empowering women. She declared that, "... by protecting the environment, these women are also becoming powerful champions for sustainable management of scarce resources such as water, equitable economic development, good political governance, and ultimately… peace".

She was a woman who embraced and effortlessly lived her authentic self. She was living her destiny and understood her purpose. Her message was clear, her convictions and passions real and overt. She taught, listened and counseled those who were willing and open to learn and grow authentically. Her impact was global.

Mama Wangari's legacy lives on.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Child Brides - Nepal

Nepal is predominately a patriarchal society where women have a much lower status than men. It is the girl children who suffer most from this discriminatory attitude. In a society, which has reportedly the highest rate of son preference in the world, girls are a liability from the time they are born. Sons continue the blood linkage; daughters do not.

The non-status of girl children as complete human beings makes its presence felt in many discriminatory practices within the family. Girls get less medical care and have less access to education and food than their brothers.
Child marriage in Nepal is not a new phenomenon. It is a socially established practice that has been carried on from generation to generation.

Poverty is a critical factor contributing to child marriage and a common reason why parents may encourage a child to marry. Where poverty is acute, a young girl may be regarded as an economic burden and her marriage to a much older - sometimes even elderly - man is believed to benefit the child and her family both financially and socially. However, in some regions of the world like Asia, religion is a significant factor in the continuity of child marriage.

Religion has sanctioned it, and society has ensured its continuity. Child marriage is an institution sanctioned by ancient Hindu laws and devotedly practiced by its followers. In the ancient Hindu scriptures of 400 to 100 BC, there are strict moral laws that enjoin the father to marry off his daughter at a very young age. These religious texts indicate that the best age for a girl to get married is between is 8 and 10.

In the ancient Hindu scriptures of 400 to 100 BC, there are strict moral laws that enjoin the father to marry off his daughter at a very young age. These religious texts indicate that the best age for a girl to get married is between is 8 and 10. Religion has projected marriage and motherhood as the be-all and end-all goal of every woman and there is strong pressure (not only from within the immediate family, but also from community members) to get daughters married as soon as possible. The pressure to maintain caste purity is intense.

The custom of child marriage seems to have been triggered off by the “Brahmin” clan, which is considered the highest caste according to Hindu law. Child marriage was usually understood to mean the marriage of two children, but it also included unmatched marriages. The highly gender discriminative Hindu marriage law permitted the marriage of a very young girl and a very old man. The Hindu puritans also gave full sexual freedom to the men: they could marry as many wives the wanted for pleasure and child rearing, but were very strict with women.

Child marriage is a culturally acceptable tradition in Nepal.

The tradition of child marriage is stronger in Indo-Aryan orthodox Hindu communities such as Parbatia (Bramhins, Chetris, etc.). It is less prominent among the Tibeto-Burman groups, such as the Kirati, Magar, Tamang, Sherpa and other hill/mountain groups. The practice is strongest among the Maithilis living in the Terai (southern plains).

The Nepalese Civil Code of 1963 fixed the legal age for marriage of girls at 16 and made polygamy and child marriage illegal. A girl can marry after the age of 16 years with the consent of her parents or guardians, and at 18 she can marry without their consent. These legal measures, however, are largely ineffective, especially in the rural villages. Almost a quarter of the total districts in Nepal have a mean age at marriage that is below the legal age, and none of the districts is devoid of the incidence of child marriage.

Child marriage is common in practice.

Volunteer Aid

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Child Brides - Afghanistan

Afghanistan is one of the Islamic countries where people hold strongly tight to customs and traditions. Breaking the tradition of marrying young children, both boys and girls, is not only difficult, but near impossible in most urban districts.

According to a United Nations’ report, between 60 to 80 percent of marriages in Afghanistan are forced marriages. The report states that the reasons why girls are dragged into forced marriages include repayment of debts, to solve a dispute and to pay family expenses.

Young and scared with no hope of the future
In the rural areas of Afghanistan, girls are mostly married between ages of 7 to 11. It is really rare that a girl reaches the age of 16 and is not married. The customs, traditions and community they live in make it impossible for girls to break free from forced marriages. They do not get ask to speak for self-desire. The fathers in the families mostly decide, as the mothers do not get involved in the decisions, because they are women.

Little bride

In Afghan villages, it's considered dishonorable for families for daughters to meet and date boys. Some parents try to marry their daughters as soon as possible to avoid such a prospect. A lack of security during more than three decades of war, and the risk of kidnapping and rape, has also prompted many families to force their young daughters into marriage. And widespread poverty still compels many parents to get their daughters married to avoid the cost of caring for them.

The Afghan government has taken some steps to tackle the problem. The country has recently changed the legal age for marriage for girls from 16 to 17. Men who want to marry girls under 17 are not entitled to obtain a marriage certificate, although rights activists say many men simply do not bother with officially registering their marriages.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Child Brides - Kenya

In Africa the monetary value of bride price, or bride wealth, is linked with marriage. Bride price is a sum, either in cash or kind, used to purchase a bride for her labour and fertility.

In the context of poverty, the practice of paying bride price can encourage early marriage. Young girls, a resource with which their parents can attain greater wealth, are married off a young age, for the bride price and also as a way for parents to lessen their economic burdens.

Although the legal age of marriage for both women and men in Kenya is 18, about a quarter of Kenyan girls are married before their 18th birthdays, and the number is higher in rural areas. Girls traditionally move to their husbands’ homes, where they often have little status and even less access to information and services related to family planning and reproductive health.

Masai girl-bride
More than 80 percent of married girls ages 15 to 24 in Kenya have given birth. That compares to just a third of sexually active but unmarried Kenyan girls in the same age group. In addition, the earlier a girl gets married, the earlier she has a baby, and early first births are the riskiest for women. In Kenya, the median age at first birth is 16 for girls who are married at 14 or 15, 18 for girls married at 16 or 17, and 19 for girls married at 18 or 19.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Child Brides - Niger

Niger is a developing country. It consistently has one of the lowest ranks of the United Nations' Human Development Index (HDI), currently 167th of 169 countries. In Niger, where early marriage rates approach the highest in the world, only 15 percent of adult women are literate, and fewer than one-third of girls are enrolled in primary school.

A 13-year-old bride who is being married to a 38-year-old man in a village in Niger — in accordance with tradition — stays hidden in a room during the religious and festive part of her marriage ceremony
Breaking out of the tradition to marry young is difficult. These girls do not often receive support from their families to say no to marriage.

Additionally, cultural, economic, and religious aspects of the communities when they live make it nearly impossible for the girls to break free from marrying early. 

In the rural villages of Egypt, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Pakistan, India, and the Middle East, many young girls are rarely allowed out of their homes unless it is to work in the fields or to get married.

These uneducated girls are often married off at the young age of 11. Some families allow girls who are only 7 years old to marry. It is very unusual for a girl to reach the age of 16 and not be married. In Afghanistan, it is believed that between 60 and 80 percent of marriages are forced marriages.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Child Brides -Ethiopia Part 2

Tume Mida - a wife at the age of 10 years.

Tume Mida is 10 years old; her husband, Dida Malicha, is 22.

Tume was born in a village 100 kilometers away from her husband’s home, where she now lives. Despite the distance, their families knew each other because of an earlier marriage. When it was time for Dida to marry, he and his father came to Tume’s family and proposed to one of Tume’s sisters, who was 25.

Both families agreed to the wedding, part of the bride price (through coffee and tobacco) was paid and the date of the ceremony was set. But, when Dida and his father returned to the village some time later they were shocked to discover the bride had married somebody else. Dida’s family was very angry, but agreed to discuss with Tume’s family to find a solution. It turned out Tume was the solution.

10-year-old Tume was offered as a replacement bride. Nothing prevented Dida and his family from looking for another family, but because they already had an agreement with Tume’s family, and had paid part of the bride price, they decided not to look elsewhere.

Dida explained his feelings about Tume’s older sister. “When she refused, I was so angry, I cried a lot. I thought I would not marry at all.” He had no desire to marry the young girl, and started to look for another bride to avoid doing so. But finally, his family calmed him down and convinced him to marry Tume. He resigned himself to marrying her. “My father asked me whether I wanted this girl or if I preferred to ask another from a different family. But it is our culture: if you first propose to a girl of one family, you have to accept to marry another girl from the same family in case it does not work with the first one.”

Dida’s father said that Tume’s reaction to the marriage has been good: “She knows properly why she came to this family and she is happy with it. She is active, she knows everything and is acting as if she were the housewife.”
Asking Tume if she missed her family, she answered, “I don’t think about my family. My family is here, not there.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Child Brides -Ethiopia Part 1

Ethiopia has one of the most severe crises of child marriage in the world today. The legal age of marriage is 18 for both males and females, 16 but it is widely ignored. Ethiopia is the site of some of the most abusive marital practices, such as marriage by abduction and forced unions between cousins (abusuma).

A high prevalence of child marriage exists in Ethiopia. Nationwide, 19 percent of girls were married by age 15, and about half of girls were married by age 18.  Child marriage is extremely prevalent in some regions; in Amhara, 50 percent of girls were married by age 15, and 80 percent were married by age 18.

Large spousal age differences are common and may limit married girls’ autonomy and decision-making ability. The younger a bride is, the greater the age difference between her and her spouse. In Ethiopia, the mean age difference between spouses is 10.1 years if the wife marries before age 15 compared to 8.6 years if the wife marries at or after age 20.

First births have elevated risks. The youngest first-time mothers and their children are especially vulnerable to poor health outcomes
Among married girls aged 15–19 in Ethiopia, almost half have already given birth. The vast majority of births occurring to girls before age 18 are first births (77 percent), and nearly all of these first births occur within marriage (96 percent).

Source: POPCouncil

Monday, September 19, 2011

Child Brides - Africa

Despite many countries enacting marriageable age laws to limit marriage to a minimum age of 16 to 18, depending on jurisdiction, traditional marriages of girls of younger ages are widespread. Poverty, religion, tradition, and conflict make the rate of child marriage in Sub-Saharan Africa similar to that in South Asia.

In many ethnic systems, a man pays a bride price to the girl's family in order to marry her.  In many parts of Africa, this payment, in cash, cattle, or other valuables, decreases, as a girl gets older. Even before a girl reaches puberty, it is common for a married girl to leave her parents to be with her husband. Many marriages are related to poverty, with parents needing the bride price of a daughter to feed, clothe, educate, and house the rest of the family. Meanwhile, a male child in these countries is more likely to gain a full education, gain employment and pursue a working life, thus tending to marry later. In Mali, the female/male ratio of marriage before age 18 is 72:1; and in Kenya it is 21:1.
Young bride with no bright future
The various UN-commissioned reports indicate that in many Sub-Saharan countries, there is a high incidence of marriage among girls younger than 15. Many governments have tended to overlook the particular problems resulting from child marriage, including obstetric fistulae, premature births, stillbirth, sexually transmitted diseases (including cervical cancer), and malaria.

In parts of Ethiopia and Nigeria, numerous girls are married before the age of 15, and some girls are married as young as the age of 7. In parts of Mali, 39% of girls are married before the age of 15. In Niger and Chad, over 70% of girls are married before the age of 18. In South Africa, the law provides for respecting the marriage practices of traditional marriages, whereby a person might be married as young as 12 for females and 14 for males.

Early marriage is cited as "a barrier to continuing education for girls (and boys)". This includes absuma (arranged marriages set up between cousins at birth), bride kidnapping, and elopement decided on by the children.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Child Bride's Nightmare Part 2

In April 2008, the case of Nujood Ali, a 10-year-old girl who successfully obtained a divorce, sparked headlines around the world. Her case prompted calls to raise the legal age for marriage to 18. Later in 2008, the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood proposed to define the minimum age for marriage at 18 years. The law was passed in April 2009, with the age voted for as 17. But the law was dropped the following day following maneuvers by opposing parliamentarians. Negotiations to pass the legislation continue. Meanwhile, Yemenis inspired by Nujood's efforts continue to push for change, with Nujood involved in at least one rally. And one awareness campaign claims to have prevented some early marriages in the Yemeni government of Amran.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Child Bride's Nightmare Part 1

"Yemen is full of child brides. Roughly half of Yemeni girls are married before 18, some as young as eight." Until recently, Yemeni law set the minimum age for marriage at 15. But tribal customs and interpretations of Islam often trump the law. In practice, "Yemeni law allows girls of any age to wed, but it forbids sex with them until the indefinite time they’re 'suitable for sexual intercourse.'" In 1999, the minimum marriage age of fifteen for women was abolished; the onset of puberty, interpreted by conservatives to be at the age of nine, was set as a requirement for consummation of marriage.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Child Brides - Violence

Case Study: A Child Bride Speaks
The 2006 Nepal Report on Child Marriage includes the following testimony from a child bride:
"I was married to a nine-year-old boy when I was three. At that point of time, I was unaware of marriages. I don't even remember my marriage event. I just remember that as I was too young and was unable to walk and they had to carry me and bring me over to their place. Getting married at an early age, I was destined to suffer a lot of hardships. I had to carry water in a small clay-pot in the mornings. I had to sweep and swap the floor everyday.
"Those were the days when I wanted to eat good food and wear pretty clothes. I used to feel very hungry, but I had to be satisfied with the amount of food that I was provided. I never got to eat enough. I sometimes secretly ate corns, soybeans, etc that used to grow in the field. And if I was caught eating, my inlaws and husband would beat me up accusing me of stealing from the field and eating. Sometimes the villagers used to give me food and if my husband and in-laws found out, they used to beat me up accusing me of stealing food from the house. They used to give me one black blouse and a cotton sari1 torn into two pieces. I had to wear these for two years.
"Never did I get other accessories like petticoats, belts etc. When my saris got torn, I used to patch them up and continue wearing them. My husband married three times after me. At present, he lives with his youngest wife. Since I married at an early age, early child-delivery was inevitable. As a result, I now have severe back problems. I used to weep a lot and consequently, I faced problems with my eyes and had to undergo an eye operation. I often think that if I had the power to think like I do now, I would never go to that house.
"I also wish I had not given birth to any children. Retrospective sufferings make me wish not to see my husband again. Nevertheless, I do not want him to die because I don't want to lose my marital status."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Child Brides - Consequences contd 3...

The effects of child marriage a far reaching with multiple ripple effects that affect not just the girls but the community and a nation. The consequences of marrying young girls at tender ages also include:

  • Illiteracy: Child brides are often pulled out of school and denied further education. Their children are also more likely to be illiterate.
  • Poverty: Child brides - already poor - are isolated and denied education and employment opportunities, making it difficult for them break out of the cycle of poverty.
  • Abuse and Violence: Child brides are more likely to experience domestic abuse, and violence than their peers who marry later.
  • Mental Health: Violence and abuse can lead to post-traumatic stress and depression.
  • Isolation and Abandonment: Child brides are often isolated from their peers and abandoned if they develop health problems like fistula.

Ethiopian child bride

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is designed to guarantee certain individual rights--which are abused by early marriage. Rights undermined or lost by children forced to marry early are:
1.    The right to an education.
2.   The right to be protected from physical and mental violence, injury or abuse, including sexual abuse, rape and sexual exploitation.
3.   The right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health.
4.   The right to rest and leisure, and to participate freely in cultural life.
5.    The right to not be separated from parents against the child's will.
6.   The right to protection against all forms of exploitation affecting any aspect of the child’s welfare.
7.   The right to future employment.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Child Brides - Consequences contd 2...

Child marriage has violent health effects on the young girls: 

Health Problems: Premature childbirth can lead to a variety of health problems for mothers, including fistula, a debilitating condition that causes chronic incontinence. Girls with fistula are often abandoned by their husbands and ostracized by society. There are approximately 2 million girls living with fistula, and 100,000 new cases every year.

HIV/AIDS: Married girls may be more likely to contract sexually transmitted disease, including HIV/AIDS, than unmarried girls. Young girls are more physically susceptible to STD's, have less access to reproductive education and health services and are often powerless to demand the use of contraception.

Girl bride
Young brides are:

More likely to become young mothers. Girls under the age of 15 are five times more likely to die of childbirth than a woman in her 20s.

More likely to drop out of school and have limited economic opportunities, which keeps them and their families locked in the cycle of poverty.

Twice as likely to suffer domestic violence and are more vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases like HIV.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Child Brides: Stolen Lives and Consequences

Little Bride
In December of 2010, the Senate voted unanimously to pass the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act. In February of 2011, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) reintroduced the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act (S.414).  When discussing this piece of legislation Senator Durbin stated, “Tens of millions of women and girls around the world have lost their dignity, independence and lives due to child marriage. Child marriage denies these women and girls of an education, economic independence and is the root cause of many of the world’s most pressing development issues – HIV/ AIDS, child mortality, and abject poverty.” The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2011 seeks to “…reduce maternal and child mortality, reduce maternal illness, halt the transmission of HIV/AIDS [and] prevent gender-based violence.

The devastating effects of child marriage are too high a price for continued silence on the issue.

Effects of child marriages: Child brides are more likely than unmarried girls to die younger, suffer from health problems, live in poverty and remain illiterate.

 - Premature Pregnancy: Child brides almost always bear children before they are physically - or emotionally - ready.

- Maternal Mortality: Girls younger than 15 are five times more likely to die during child birth or pregnancy than older women. Pregnancy-related deaths are the leading cause of mortality for girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide.

- Infant Mortality: Mortality rates for babies born to mothers under age 20 are almost 75% higher than for children born to older mothers. The children that survive are more likely to be premature, have a low birth weight, and are more at risk for contracting HIV/AIDS.

Effects of child marriage contd...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Child Marriage

Child marriage usually refers to two separate social occurrences, which are practiced in some societies. The first and more widespread practice is that of marrying a young child (generally defined as below the age of fifteen) to an adult. Due to women's shorter reproductive life period (relative to men's), the practice of child marriage tends to be of young girls to fully-grown men.

The second practice is a form of arranged marriage, in which the parents of two children from different families arrange a future marriage. In this practice, the individuals who become betrothed often do not meet one another until the wedding ceremony, which occurs when they are both considered to be of a marriageable age.

Although child marriages were not seen as improper in historical context as individuals were considered to be matured at an earlier age than in the modern West an increase in the advocacy of human rights, whether as women's rights or as children's rights, has caused the traditions of child marriage to decrease greatly.

In child betrothals, a child's parents arrange a match with the parents of a child from another family (social standing, wealth and expected education all play a part), thus unilaterally determining the child's future at a young age. It is thought by adherents that physical attraction is not a suitable foundation upon which to build a marriage and a family. A separate consideration is the age at which the wedding, as opposed to the engagement, takes place.

Families are able to cement political and/or financial ties by having their children marry. The betrothal is considered a binding contract upon the families and the children. The breaking of a betrothal can have serious consequences both for the families and for the betrothed individuals themselves.
Source: Wiki