Feminization of Poverty

child marriage Survey Results

The research establishes that family type (and/or household structure), interacted with gender, dramatically affects the likelihood of poverty. Our findings confirm that single-parent households—which are overwhelmingly female headed in all of these provinces face the greatest risk of poverty. Women who are married this young become invisible in their communities; it is both a human rights violation and something that perpetuates the cycle of poverty. The research has gauged three variables and triangulate through grounded theory that how ECM constitutes a base for the gendered poverty. The first variable is highlighting the ratio of ECM in respective provinces by mentioning total marriages vs child marriages. It gave us a clear picture that the ratio of child marriages is quite high in Razavi Khorasan and Khuzestan provinces. Altogather the ratio of ECM is 54% in seven of the provinces during the span of ten years.

Diagram 1 shows ECM’s prevalence in the last 10 years in the selected seven provinces in Iran. As per the diagram, ECM is still practiced in high ranges. However, the percentage of ECM is alarmingly high for girls rather than boys. As shown in Figure 2, within the last ten years a comparative analysis of under aged girls and boys reveals that marriages for young girls under the age of 18 are much higher than in the levels of boys’ marriage.

(Diagram 2. Divorce under 18 years of age in seven provin)ces during the span of ten years (2005-2014

Along with the ECM high rate, there has correspondingly been an increase rate in divorce in comparison to the previous decade.  As seen in the chart, the rates differ based on gender, meaning that ECM is more of an issue for girls than boys.

In contrast to marriage ages, divorce ages are increasingly targeting younger children. Each year higher numbers of children in the age groups under 18, are either divorcing or becoming child widows. Again, the issue targets more female than males, meaning that vulnerable divorced or widow girls under 18 are more visible than vulnerable widowed boys.

As per the following diagram, divorce rates are increasing yearly for both genders but the increasing levels is higher in girls under the 18 in comparison to boys. This means that each year the numbers of child divorcees/widows are augmenting particularly when a very young girls is married to a significantly older man. Because of the stigma associated with divorce, and the position of women in the community, broken marriages leave many girls living alone and raising children with no support.

A close analysis of both diagrams reveals that ECM has a dramatic effect on girls than boys. Whilst boys are sometimes subjected to early marriage, girls are disproportionately affected and form the vast majority of the victims of child marriage in iran. For girls the affects go well beyond adolescence. Many aspects of their lives are controlled by older men who considered the girls little more than sexual and domestic servants. The greater the age difference, the more likely girls are to be disempowered and at risk of violence, abuse or exploitation.  Sometimes the girls’ problems began only after making it home with their babies, where they were frequently abandoned by their husbands.

The main driving forces are patriarchal notions and the desire to subjugate women in order to control her sexuality. The complex issue of ECM is rooted in gender inequality and the belief that girls and women are somehow inferior to boys and men. Poverty, lack of education, cultural practices, and insecurity fuel and sustain ECM’s existence as girls are not valued as much as boys. They are seen as a burden on their family. Marrying a young girl at a young age can be viewed as a way to ease economic hardship by transferring this ‘burden’ to her husband’s family. ECM is also driven by patriarchal values and the desire to control female sexuality, for instance, how a girl should behave, how she should dress, who she should be allowed to see, to marry, etc.

Similarly, divorce rates are also increased in young girls in comparison to boys due to multiple factors that magnify the increasing number of social issues for girls.  There are number of young marriages that come to an early end in the province. Girls who marry young, are more prone to be divorced at an early age. Child brides are often disempowered and dependent on their husbands.  The occurrence of divorce is annually increasing leaving girls with more social problems that they as child divorcees or widows are simply not capable of handling. The enormous responsibility for a young girl to go from a life, then mother and now a divorcee or widow is catastrophic. These girls are more vulnerable to persistent poverty if their spouses die, abandon, or divorce them. Given that girls in ECM are often significantly younger than their husbands, they become widowed earlier in life and may face associated economic and social challenges for a greater portion of their life than women who marry later. This problem threatens to increase with the expanding youth population in the developing world. In addition as ECM is considered an interfamilial binding contract, the breaking of it, i.e. divorce can have serious consequences both for the families and for the girl. Even those girls with the option of divorcing an abusive spouse are vulnerable because they have little earning power, education, and financial support. Widowhood  is  one  of  the  most  neglected  gender  and  human  rights  issues within ECM. These young girls, long invisible in many countries are most vulnerable.  This is particularly acute in rural areas, where   traditions,   customs   and   discriminatory interpretations  of religious  codes  often  dominate and  where  there  is  a  glaring  lack  of  the modern age  of marriage  legislation.  The  consequences  of  widowhood which  include  social ostracisation, economic  dependency,  marginalisation,  legal  discrimination,  political  insensitivity  and human rights violations. All these consequences are intensified by the fact that they are being faced by young child widows who are extremely vulnerable. Child widows are the legacy of ECM.

An analysis of the ECM ratio in the last decades shows that the child marriage quotas in total marriage frequencies have always been more than 35 %. This is a reflection of the cultural norms that flourish within the social system to carry on with the practice of ECM.

Read more: Feminization of Poverty-The Cause and Consequence of Early Childhood Marriages in Iran

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