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Last week, a 16-year-old girl came to me and said her parents were forcing her to marry a man twice her age. I met with her parents and informed them about the negative consequences of child marriage. I told them it would be devastating for her and her child’s mental and physical health if she got pregnant. Divorce rates are higher with child marriages. It is also illegal (to marry a girl under 18 years), so they would not be able to register the marriage. Without registration, the marriage wouldn’t be legally valid, and if she got divorced, she would not even receive alimony.
Governments must take a holistic view of the health impact of this pandemic. All women have a right to quality, affordable sexual and reproductive health services. Governments have a responsibility to make sure women and girls can access these services, even during a crisis.
I have been working in peace and conflict transformation since the 2001 ethno-religious crisis in Jos (Plateau State). My work involves countering violence against women and girls and promoting their involvement in development processes. This is something I am passionate about. I want us to move away from treating women as second-class citizens. I want to reach a point where the prejudices against women are reduced to the barest minimum, if not completely wiped off.
Mass shooting incidents increased during the pandemic, data shows
According to speakers at the event, recent studies have found that globally, female labour force participation decreases with each additional child by about 10 to 15 per cent among women aged 25 to 39. When policies and regulatory frameworks are in place that support women’s economic participation and enable their access to sexual and reproductive health, such as providing access to sexual and reproductive health services, paid parental leave, child care support and protection from violence in the workplace, women are better able to get and sustain decent work.
In the past 25 years we have exposed and fought against gender-based violence and sexual violence; we have argued for the notion of consent to be recognized in law and exposed the harm that gender-based violence inflicts on women’s health and well-being, as well as on society. Thank you to #MeToo for driving this point home. Back in 1995, domestic violence, frequently committed and rarely punished, was not a crime in many countries. Just in the last decade, 47 countries have introduced laws to criminalize domestic violence. We now have 145 countries that have some form of legislation against domestic violence. But we’re not done yet in this area because there are about 40 countries still remaining to address this.
We find that we sometimes have to rely on the public health system and the health providers who see the women present with symptoms that show that they live with violence. It could be mental ill health. It could be women with bruises, women needing an eye specialist, an ear specialist, an orthopedic surgeon. And sometimes women turn up in the morgue.