Child marriage is gender-based violence: Sioka

28 Sep 2015 18:10pm
WINDHOEK, 28 SEP (NAMPA) - The Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Doreen Sioka has called on parents, foster parents, uncles and traditional leaders to stop the practice of child marriages.
The minister, whose speech was read on her behalf at the celebration of the Day of the Namibian Child on Monday, said this is a serious form of Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
Sioka said child marriage incidents are concealed in Namibian villages and homesteads, all out of respect for elders and loyalty to the cultures that allow the practice.
This year’s Day of the Namibian Child was commemorated under the theme ‘Accelerating our collective efforts to end child marriages in Namibia.’
The minister said child marriage violates the privacy of the child; the child's right to education; the right to protection against abuse and torture; and the right to parental care and protection.
She noted that child marriage exposes children to the dangers of early sexual exposure, which contributes to the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS, early pregnancies and other negative health consequences on a young person.
Child marriage can also relate to teenage pregnancies, which is another great concern in Namibia, she stressed, saying that: “Statistics from the Demographic Health Survey of 2013 indicates that 26 per cent of girls aged 18 has started to bear children. This is worrying because the girl and her baby might find themselves both in need of care.”
Statistics also show that complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death of girls aged 15 to 19 years in developing countries, while infant deaths are 50 per cent higher among babies born to mothers under 20, than among those born to women in their 20s.
Sioka expressed concern that girls are missing out on getting an education because she might never return to school while the circle of poverty continues with the family and generation.
“So therefore, let us protect our children against early sexual activity, early marriages and early pregnancies. The worst of child marriage is that it exposes children to sexual exploitation, trafficking, abduction and to child labour,” she said.
The Day of the Namibian Child is celebrated annually on 28 September because on that date in 1990, Namibia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in which different rights of children are explained. This year’s commemoration was held at Baumgartsbrunn Primary School, east of Windhoek.
In the year 2000, the first Minister of Women Affairs and Child Welfare, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah requested Cabinet to declare 28 September a national Day of the Namibian Child.
The purpose of the day is to celebrate the achievements of Namibian children and to reflect on the challenges and gaps that still need to be addressed towards the betterment of the lives of Namibian children.