By Caroline Gerdes
Child brides are not unique to a single country, religion, or language. Even though child marriage is illegal in most nations, it is a common tradition — older than laws protecting against it.
“Every time I have been granted access [to take pictures] it is because there is someone within the community … who didn’t necessarily like the practice. But they wanted their voices to be heard,” said Stephanie Sinclair, who photographed National Geographic magazine’s piece examining child marriage, “Too Young to Wed: The Secret World of Child Brides.”
With the publication of the article and continuing efforts, Sinclair and the story’s author Cynthia Gorney are making sure these voices are being heard. The writer and photographer team will speak at National Geographic’s headquarters Monday, October 5. Sinclair and Gorney will show compelling images and discuss all the dilemmas facing child brides in today’s world.
One instance in the article discusses when Gorney and Sinclair witnessed the wedding ceremony of a 5-year-old girl, Rajani, to a 10-year-old boy in Rajasthan. Sinclair captured an image of Rajani at her wedding — a joint affair with her 13 and 15-year-old aunts — peering over her uncle’s shoulder as he carried her to the ceremony. She is fighting sleep while one of her big brown eyes peers from under a yellow scarf — a far cry from a western wedding march.
Sinclair’s often graphic images of young, abused wives, teenage mothers without proper healthcare, and a wailing 16-year-old on her wedding day tell the stories of young girls across the world who need help. Gorney explains these illegal ceremonies still happen today due to tradition, predatory dangers to women, the non-virgin stigma, and the idea in some cultures that freedom to choose a marriage partner is foolish.
If you’re in D.C., join us for this National Geographic Live event at Grosvenor Auditorium on Monday, October 3rd. Can’t make it in person? Tweet @NatGeoLive to learn more, and watch Stephanie’s multimedia presentation below.