Research on early marriage or child marriage in Ethiopia; summary of interim report.
The InterAfrican Committee (IAC) has taken the position that marriage below the age of 18 years is injurious to the health of woman and child. Girls <18 years are considered to be physically, psychologically, and physiologically not ready to carry the responsibilities of marriage and childbearing. In rural Africa, unfortunately, the average age of marriage is 15 years. A survey of 500 community and traditional leaders, traditional birth attendants, spiritual leaders, government workers, and female victims was conducted by Dr. Tsehai-Berhane-Selaisse in Ethiopia in the provinces of Gojam and Volayta in the northern and southern regions. The findings were that child marriage, and not early marriage, predominated: girls aged 5-10 years in Gojam and girls aged 12-13 years in Wolayta. Female circumcision was required before marriage. A high incidence of maternal and child mortality occurred in child marriages, but there was little documentation. Parents, who arranged child marriages, cited economic reasons. These conditions resulted in lasting physical and psychological damage to the child wife and mother. Documentation from mothers seen in an Addis Ababa fistula clinic and an employment agency revealed the strong sense of cultural victimization felt by these girls and women. Such evidence leads to the conclusion that research and information campaigns should be conducted in order to raise public awareness of the damage and pain associated with child marriages. The IAC has produced a film on early childhood marriage in Ethiopia, which is available through the IAC liaison in Geneva, Switzerland.