Child Marriages: From a Feminist’s Perspective


By Joy Ayoika

I recently read a story about a 19 year old who stabbed her 35 year old rapist husband to death after he raped her on their honeymoon. On the surface, i did not think much of the story, but as i kept reading, i found out that her name is Noura Hussein and she was initially forced into marriage at 15. During the first ceremony at that age she ran away and was forced to complete the ceremony four years later when they found her. I also learned that she is from South Sudan, where the legal age to get married is just 10.


The first time it happened, her rapist husband and three other male cousins pinned her down as he raped her. When he tried again, she fought him off and stabbed him amidst the struggle. Noura Hussein was originally been sentenced to death, but after the Sudanese Supreme Court reversed the sentence, she is now facing five years in jail and an $18,700 fine to his family.


As i was sitting at a coffee shop reading this story, i flashed back to when i was 10. At 10, i was busy running outside on the dirt roads in Kenya and thinking of ways to steal sugar and milk from my mom’s kitchen so my friends and I could play house. I wasn’t worried about getting married, or facing a life sentence for killing the man who forced himself on top of me.


However, the harsh reality is that Noura is one of many young children whose families force them into marriage. The sickening reality is that their stories will never be heard, and many will never receive the justice they deserve. Thinking of this reality, i feel defeated. I feel defeated because in 2018 there are countries that deny women their basic rights; the rights to choose to remain children versus marrying at the age of 10. These girls did not choose to be born where they were. It is not their fault.


I was born and raised in Kenya, a country neighboring South Sudan, where child marriages are rampant despite being outlawed. I could have been Noura. Had i been born into different circumstance, there is a high chance that i would have been forced into marriage and become a statistic. As i was reading about the occurrences of child marriages across the world, i realized that i am privileged, privileged enough to have escaped that reality.


Anyone of us could have been these children, and as a feminist i feel as though i have failed her and the many children in her shoes. I’ve failed them because had her story not received international outrage, i would have never thought about the impact of child marriages. I would have retweeted, or reposted a facebook post, but never taken the time to learn and educate myself on it. I would have never asked myself “what can i do?”


I am asking all of us to ask ourselves “what can we do?” These 10 year old girls cannot fight these battles alone, therefore how can we help them fight. We don’t have to be in their shoes to understand that this is wrong. I am asking us to be their voices and advocate on their behalf because that is how we raise another generation of strong feminists.


Below is a link to Naura’s story as well as resources that we can use to educate ourselves on child marriages and how to stop them.


Here is Noura’s story:


Learn more about child marriages and how to stop them:


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