Child Marriage Campaigns Are Missing the Point

On the International Day of the Girl Child, we know that one in three girls in developing countries — aside from China — get married before they turn 18.

Surely that is intolerable in today’s world. We think of 13-year-old brides, pushed against their will into relationships with older men, forced out of school — their futures prematurely and permanently limited to subservience and motherhood. Yet, child marriage serves as a poignant example where an arbitrary age limit completely misses the point and is in fact failing young women and girls.

There are doubtless many girls afflicted in this way around the world; we would rightly join with UN Women to abhor and seek to end such practices. We might agree with the many organizations that view this as a human rights violation.

But are we really to believe that any marriage involving parties under the age of 18 violates human rights? That any such marriage is wrong and should be prohibited?

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