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"I’M ONLY A CHILD" THE BOOK THAT’S AN INQUIRY INTO FORCED CHILD MARRIAGE

rid Im only a child Wanda Montanelli

Rome - Child brides sold as objects, with a rite of marriage or a simple exchange of money, to people of adult age, suffer real abuse, an act which aids paedophilia. The parties responsible are the families, which oblige their daughters to enter into forced marriages, and the men, who "buy" a child: as a wife-slave-sexual object.

The stories described in this book are true, they took place in Africa, India, Yemen, Niger, Pakistan, Syria, Laos, Mexico; places where, due to poverty, war, famine, it becomes customary for parents to sell young girls to adult suitors in exchange for money.

The phenomenon of forced child marriage exists in Europe too, and here in Italy, due to cases of cultural backwardness, or marriages of immigrant children taken back to their own countries, by their families, to marry with religious rites and agreements between the parties that are often outside the laws in force even in the countries of origin.

The psychological and physical effects are devastating for the girls who are torn from childhood and forced into marriage. The impact on their physical and mental health, based on data collected by UNICEF in collaboration with the Girls Not Brides organisation, is such as to include serious diseases like HIV transmitted by their adult husbands, injuries due to early childbirth and pregnancies, psychiatric disorders, and the high incidence of post-partum deaths of both mother and baby.

All this goes against the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that prohibits harming the health of minors and sets forth in Article 3 that every decision, legislative action, legal measure, public or private initiative, must have as its primary consideration the greater interest of the child.

The social denouncement aims of the Mai più spose bambine #maipiùsposebambine [no more child brides] initiative uphold the belief that joint efforts to combat the phenomenon of child marriage will lead to the development of an awareness by all the stakeholders: family, schools, governmental institutions. 

To actively contribute towards solving this serious problem, for the last five years the author has collaborated, through the Osservatorio Onerpo [National and European monitoring centre for the safeguarding of equal opportunities] of which she is vice president, with the organisation Girls Not Brides, which, with a significant global partnership programme, plans to totally abolish forced marriage by 2030.

In the stories about Malala, Aisha, Memory, Sonita, Perul, there is the painful description of the wrongs suffered, the tears of despair of child wives who at some point in their lives felt trapped. And yet, amidst all the gloomy hues of fear and suffering in the narrative, you sense a glow bestowed by a phrase, a look, a pencil to be used in secret to remember how to spell their name: a secretive idea that has helped some protagonists not to give up, to keep the hope of change alive, and supported them with courage and tireless strength to escape the hell, to fight, and spread seedlings of a "different and free life", for themselves, and for the girls of the future.

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I’M ONLY A CHILD (Stories of abuse and mistreatment in the denied childhood of child brides)

English edition 13 May 2019 - Translator: Linda Thody

The cover picture is from the painting "Bambina Sposa" [Child Bride], created by the artist Michele Zatta in March 2019, to represent the subject of this book.

*The text is available for publication entirely or partly, without the need for additional consent.

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