It's the one type of slavery the West ignores
“New York Officially Bans Child Marriage, Only Sixth State in the U.S. to do so.” You might picture this headline on a yellowing newspaper in the archives of a public library. But in actual fact it appeared online, less than a month ago. And yes, you read it correctly. New York is only the sixth American state to ban child marriage, meaning there is still a legal pathway to marrying a minor in 44 states.
Child marriage is merely a subset of the wider problem of forced marriage, which is staggering in scale. In 2016, the International Labour Organization found that “15.4 million people were living in a forced marriage to which they had not consented”. 37% of those victims are under the age of 18, and 44% of those children were “forced to marry before the age of 15 years”. “While men and boys,” the report states, “can also be victims of forced marriage,” 88% of victims are female. That figure rises among child victims of forced marriage: 96% were girls.
For me, the subject of forced marriage is personal. When I was living in Kenya, my father arranged for me to marry a man I had never met. His name was Osman Moussa. He was 27. When we were introduced, only six days before the marriage, I found that he was bald, dim and expected me to give him six sons.
Before the nikah ceremony, which would legally wed us, I begged my father to reconsider.