A recent UNFPA (2012UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund). 2012. Marrying too Young: End Child Marriage. New York.) report presents data on child marriage, including the correlates of the practice and its consequences. The report comments on the general situation of child marriage and provides detailed country profiles on 10 countries where child marriage is most prevalent. Though it does not cover programs to address child marriage, the report does offer a number of general recommendations, including: first, use data to identify and target geographic “hotspots” with high proportions and numbers of girls at risk of child marriage; second, focus on addressing the root causes underlying marriage in a given setting; and third, mitigate the harmful impact of child marriage on married girls.
This article looks at some of the root causes underlying child marriage through the prism of social determinants, and the role that faith-based and faith-inspired initiatives could play in ending the practice. The article begins by focusing on social determinants and incumbent socio-cultural norms, given that social determinants are the conditions in which people are born, grow up, live, work, and age. These conditions influence a person’s opportunity to be healthy, educated, the extent of their wealth, even where they live, and the influence they may have in their lives and careers. Social determinants are both a factor in, as well as a result of, inequities in access and realization of human rights. Various social factors impact on conditions for health and development. Some of the more common of those relevant to the issue of child marriage are social inclusion (or exclusion), and social and cultural norms—which include religion. Next, the article examines how and why faith matters by looking at instances of how governments themselves involve faith-based organizations (FBOs), as well as citing the work of some of the FBOs in dealing with the issues of child marriage. A half dozen examples of FBOs dealing with the issues are provided.
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