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Sierra Leone News: Fear of pregnancy fuels child marriage

A new report on child marriage has explored the very real ways in which cultural fear of girls’ sexuality as policed by society creates a direct pathway to marriage. “Sexuality and gender are central concerns of early and child marriage. Yet these issues have been sidelined.”
The report titled, “Child Marriage in Sierra Leone and Guinea – cultural roots and girl centred solutions,” was produced by Purposeful Productions and launched on Tuesday, 10 October 2017, at the British Council Hall.
In his presentation of the report, Executive Director of Purposeful Productions, Chernor Bah, said that the fear of the female sexuality is been demonstrated through pregnancy. “The most dreadful part for girls is because they are having sex, that is not sanctioned by us, and the thing that shows that she has had sex is pregnancy, this fear of pregnancy is a fuel for child marriage.”
Bah went on to say, “We all want a virtuous woman, but our society is structured to prevent girls from being virtuous at every stage of her life. She is faced with incredible pressure to exchange sex for anything she wants,” he said.
Poverty, the report states, has long been articulated as the foremost reason for child marriage. “But, if it is because of poverty, why are we not marrying 14-year old boys? It is not just poverty, it is gender poverty, as our girls are being used as credit cards,” said Bah.
Talking on the drivers of child marriage, he said that it exists post puberty in Sierra Leone. “But there is a big disconnect between the global narrative of who a child is and what obtains locally. As a girl hits post-puberty, she is no longer a child. There is a direct connection between culture and child marriage, which we need to have an inherent understanding of.”
Parents who give their kids to marry, Bah said, are not motivated by any positive outcome; it is often negative. The fear of what happens if their child is not married is a serious concern to them. “As sex is okay if it happens in marriage, our society is afraid of the female sexual power, and they think that marriage is the ultimate control.”
He went on to say, “If she gets pregnant she has given a bad name to the family. And, the family would want to sanitise it by getting her married-off, because we cannot deal with her as a sexual being outside the context of marriage.”
In launching the report, the First Lady, Sia Nyama Koroma applauded Purposeful Productions for going beyond the platitudes and numbers, by investigating the real drivers of child marriage in our society. “For going beyond diagnosing the problem but giving concrete solutions on steps we can all take to put an end to these.”
“The girls are deprived to realise their full potential.” Many complex issues, she said, are responsible; illiteracy, religion, cultural belief, crowd sourcing, sexual violence and teenage pregnancy, fuel the menace in the country.
UN Women and UNFPA called for close collaboration as the safety of the girl is important in exercising her choices. ZJ/10/10/17
By Zainab Joaque
Thursday October 12, 2017.

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