Marriage is a Choice, Not Culture By Jhirlymarie Lloyd F. Tio, Grade 10

The long train of a beautiful bride sweeps the middle aisle covered in rose petals as she walks down the aisle in the arms of her father. Smiling, nodding her head to her guests, and finally meeting the eyes of the person who loves her the most. It was finally the day she had been preparing for; she would exchange vows and rings as a symbol of true love and connection. She would end the day knowing she had her partner, her supporter, and her true love for the rest of her days.

This was how I always used to imagine weddings. Such a simple and nurturing union of two people who loved each other. As I grew up and got the opportunity to learn so much more, I learned that weddings are not always this sparkling, happy, love-based events I had always imagined.

In so many Asian countries, weddings seem to be some sort of trade, some deal, or some sort of bargain for the life of young girls. Girls were born into a community where they learn that their fate is to be married to continue to survive, not only for themselves, but also to help their family. They learn that without a husband, they cannot do anything. With those words and thoughts being pounded into them every day, they cannot help themselves when they are married off to someone they have barely met and do not love at all. Girls without a choice, and some without the knowledge that they ever had a choice, lose their childhood to become brides and mothers.

Their marriage is not the fairytale we always see, yet it is the reality that is always happening. Day after day, a young girl is married to a man, not for love, but for money, for a home, or to be a vessel to produce offspring.

Culture plays a role in these marriages, but it is not culture that decides marriage, it is love, joy, and companionship. Yes, these girls will have money, but will they have it freely? They have a home, but are they safe? They have children, but is it truly theirs? They have found a way to survive, but are they truly living?

Would you have survived being a mother as early as thirteen? Could you imagine being married at the age of twelve? Could you care for a child as a child? These questions run through my mind as I think of these young mothers and wives. It pounds on my heart thinking about the things they could have done, the people they could have loved, the experiences they could have had.

Brides may be girls, but girls are not just brides. They are doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, designers, soldiers, students, and trailblazers. How could you ever expect girls to build their life up to only one role? Marriage is a choice not culture. A girl’s childhood is not preparation to be a mother and wife, instead it is for education to be the person she dreams to be.

In their efforts to spread this important message, the Zonta Club of Cebu 2 have shared this message in a webinar entitled Girls not Brides held last January 9, 2021. This webinar was attended by women and men of all ages. It just shows how in these times, there are ways to lift one another up and bring awareness to situations like child marriage.

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