Child Brides or Child Labor in a Worst Form?

Monday, 16 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Zeynep SISLI, Izmir University of Economics, Turkey
Stephanie LIMONCELLI, Loyola Marymount University, USA
The early and/or forced marriage of girls under 18 is an important problem that persists around the world and there is increasing attention to the harms that children experience as a result of it. Civil society groups have brought attention to the sexual, psychological, and physical abuse, loss of education, and health impacts that child brides experience. To date, however, scholars and activists have tended to overlook one important aspect of child marriage: labor. Child brides may be expected to perform household, agricultural, and/or other types of work and to care for disabled and older people in the home. Yet because of gendered notions of work and rigid ideas about what counts as formal, informal, and domestic labor, these activities have been seen as the ‚Äúnatural responsibilities‚ÄĚ of girls and wives.

In this paper, we argue that child marriage should be understood, in part, as an exploitative form of child labor. We describe the types and conditions of labor that commonly occur in child marriage and assess the usefulness of current international laws, including slavery and trafficking laws such as the United Nations Trafficking Protocol, in adequately addressing the forced labor of child brides. We also make the case that child marriage should be addressed by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as one of the worst forms of child labor and we suggest a legal mechanism, the ILO Convention No.182 (known as the Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention) as one possible way to help to raise awareness in families and across societies about the harms of child marriage and provide for criminal and civil sanctions as tools to combat it.