One in every 20 women is a wife by age 15 in Guyana
A survey conducted by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) in collaboration with the Bureau of Statistics in 2006 has found that one in every 20 women between the ages of 15 – 49 were married or in union before the age of 15.
According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), the tendency towards early marriage is highest among women from the poorest of the households, and among those with only primary education.
MICS found that one fifth of the women between the ages of 20 – 49 were married or in union before age 18 and the more educated the woman the less likely would she be married before the age of 18.
As it relates to ethnicity, Amerindian and East Indian women are more likely than their African counterparts to be married before age 18.
It was also noted that these women are 10 or more years younger than their spouses.
The survey found that one in every five women, regardless of age, is married or in union with a partner 10 years or more her senior. However, it was explained that women in the younger age group (15 – 19 years) are more likely than those in the older age group (20 – 24) to have husbands/partners who are five to nine years older.
It was explained that marriage before the age of 18 is a reality for many young girls and according to UNICEF’s worldwide estimates, over 60 million women aged 20 – 24 were married or in union before the age of 18.
UNICEF noted that factors that influence child marriages include the state of the country’s civil registration system, which provides proof of age for children, the existence of an adequate legislative framework with an accompanying enforcement mechanism to address cases of child marriages, and the existence of customary or religious laws that condone the practice.
“In many parts of the world, parents encourage the marriage of their daughters while they are still children in the hope that the marriage will benefit them both financially and socially, while also relieving financial burdens on the family,” UNICEF stated.
The organisation noted that child marriage is a violation of human rights, compromising the development of girls and often resulting in early pregnancy and social isolation, with little education and poor vocational training reinforcing the gendered nature of poverty.
It was explained that young married girls are a unique, invisible group that are required to perform heavy amounts of domestic work under pressure to demonstrate fertility, and are responsible for raising children while still children themselves.
Meanwhile, it was found that 18 percent of women believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife/partner mostly in cases where they neglect the children.
A high proportion of women believe that husbands/partners have a right to beat their wives/partners if they go out without telling him and if they argue with him. Additionally, MICS found that one in 20 women strongly believe that a husband/partner has the right to beat his wife/partner if she refuses to have sex with him.
“Domestic violence is three times more prevalent among rural women than among urban women. Currently, married/in union women seem to be most accepting to domestic violence whilst those who were never married or in union were least accepting,” according to MICS.
However, the survey also noted that wealth and education were found to be key factors in women’s attitudes toward domestic violence.
The poorer the women, the more likely she is to accept domestic violence.