With water points far from home, women and girls in the countryside shoulder the burden of fetching water from source to household, often walking long distances. This subjects them to the risk of rape. Young girls are most vulnerable because they can be waylaid by older boys or men.
As a result, we have cases of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Then their education is affected. Some girls also get tempted and fall for the allure of boys. This, along with other factors, have significantly contributed to the growing proportion of young girls dropping out of school due to early pregnancies.
No official statistics exists to verify the number of child mothers who, aided by their parents, either get married at a very young age, or are sent out of home to start cohabiting because parents discover that they are pregnant.
A number of cases have been reported in the media, an indication that early marriages are rampant, especially in remote areas where laws to stem such practices seem not to be enforced.
Many parents, on discovering that their daughters are pregnant, send them away from home to live with their boyfriends. This marks the end of schooling for such girls and forces them to take on family responsibilities way beyond their age.
Since many communities have become accustomed to this practice, many of them see no problem with it. Besides, legal information remains inaccessible to many hard-to-reach villages.
It means communities living in those areas do not understand the legal implications of marrying off underage girls. Poor road access and limited means of transport possibly mean communities live far away from police to report offenders.
As a result, parents and community leaders are happy to settle such crimes at the village level without involving police. Worse still, some parents believe that once such cases are settled locally, it substitutes the law and as far as they are concerned, it is the best option.
Community and religious leaders should actively get involved in working with parents and members of communities to end the bad tradition of early marriage.
The law should be enforced, especially in rural areas, to control the numbers of young girls who drop out of school to get married.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor