Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Early marriage: a different perspective for teenage pregnancy

The prevalence of early marriage in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in the Philippines is diffi cult to monitor considering that there is insuffi ciency of data due to low rate of registration of births and marriages.

One recent research by Nisa Ul Haqq Fi Bangsamoro (NISA) and Al-Mujadillah Development Foundation (AMDF), which was conducted in Sulu, Basilan, Maguindanao, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur and Shariff Kabunsuan, has found out that the youngest bridal age is nine. Out of 598 respondents, 17 percent aged from nine to fourteen and 83 percent were at the range of fi fteen to seventeen upon marriage.

At present, close to 40 percent of the respondents are raising one to three children, 27.9 percent with four to six, 19.2 percent attend to more than seven children, while 13.7 percent do not have children yet. This illustrates that the younger a girl marries, the more she will likely to bear many children.

The study identifi ed six determinants on why early marriage is happening in the region. These are:

• religious beliefs
• cultural practices
• economic conditions
• personal circumstances
• forced/arranged marriage,
• and political reasons.

Many consider early marriage as a protection against Zina (extramarital and premarital sex) and is perceived to be an effective way in following the Sunnah (the way and the manners of Prophet Mohammad). This is also to preserve the chastity of women to protect the family’s honor. In addition, there is also a widespread perception that women are weak and in need of protection. Forty-one percent of the respondents have revealed that they were motivated by the idea that the husband
would be a good provider and 30.10 percent confessed that a dowry was seen as an economic opportunity. More than half of the girl-brides who admitted having romantic
relationships with their would-be husbands said that peer influence and the need to escape from parental control have been factors in the decision to marry early.

Majority of the respondents (86.2 percent) said that their marriages were arranged while 34 respondents confided that they were abducted. A small percentage cited political reasons and these are: to forge political alliances and settle family disputes.

The prevalence of early marriage in ARMM can be a major possible reason why this region has one of the highest maternal mortality rate (MMR) in the Philippines.

Article by Amanah Lao. The article is published in Health Alert Asia Pacific newsletter (Issue 15) by HAIN. For copies of the newsletter, please write to hain@hain.org

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