Amina, mother and married too young

early marriage in DRC

Photo: UNICEF DRC Morton

Walking in my neighborhood in Bunia, I met Amina, 17 years old. The young girl, who became a mother at the age of 16, tells us her story with sadness.

Too much suffering led Amina to dream of something better

Bankoku neigborhood in Bunia is known for its military camp named « OPAS ». Walking there, I met a young girl who shared her story with me.

“I am the oldest of a family of 5 children. My father is a soldier and spends almost all his time in the bush. Given the inadequacy of his income, he cannot provide my brothers and I with formal education. To feed the family, I was forced to accompany my mother to the market to sell vegetables. One day at the market, a young meat seller approached me. He asked me to be his girlfriend. I was still too young to accept his offer, but influenced by his multiple gifts, by my entourage and by the misery I faced, I accepted. Two months later, I was pregnant by him.”

Amina was expelled from her parents home to be taken to the young man. The amicable arrangement came soon after.

“When my parents learned of the news, they took me to the boy. My father, very angry, threatened to take the young man to court, until he paid a sum of 150.000 Congolese francs [around $100] to try to ease the situation. Since that day, I live at the home of the boy, with my child.”

Amina, 17 years old today, is married and mother of a three month old baby. She regrets becoming a mother too quickly. “I always want to go back to school.”

The situation of young girls in Ituri

The story of Amina is common in the city. Many young girls ranging from 13 to 17 years old have sexual relations with boys ranging from 15 to 25 years old, sometimes even older. When a pregnancy arrives, the young girls are brought to the pretended husband. A little money is all that is needed to ease the situation.

Yet, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), in article 34, specifies that the State must protect children against violence, sexual exploitation and prostitution. Furthermore, article 48 of the Child Protection Act (CPA) stipulates that « betrothals and child marriages are prohibited. »

My plea to stop early marriage in DRC

I ask parents to carefully supervise their children to avoid early pregnancies. If a pregnancy happens, they must not be corrupted by the small sums of money, at the detriment to the future of their children ! Parents must take charge of their responsibilities.

The community equally has a role to play : each to denounce all cases of sexual violence so that the perpetrators be prosecuted before the law.

The Congolese State must ensure the application and respect of the different articles of the CRC and CPA. The perpetrators must be prosecuted just like parents who confuse their children with merchandise during amicable arrangements.

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Written by Andry in March 2018

Translated from French by Matthew Khalkhali

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