|A couple who got married at the early age in Mường Lát District, Thanh Hóa Province. VNA/VNS Photo Nguyễn Nam|
THANH HÓA — Phạm Thị Hiền got married in 2018 when she was 16 years old to a man a year her senior.
The Mường ethnic minority couple, residing in a mountainous area in central Thanh Hóa Province, were too young to be wed by law.
Hiền abandoned her studies after finding out she was pregnant while her husband did not have a stable job, pushing the couple into a difficult life, depending on their parents.
Not far from Hiền’s house, Phạm Thị Thảo, born in 1994, got married in 2010, two years earlier than the minimum age for girls by law.
Married life was a struggle as they kept having arguments due to financial woes.
When her son was 15 months old, in 2013, Thảo left her hometown to seek a job.
Her husband, Lê Văn Huân, was working in the northern province of Bắc Ninh as a construction worker.
Since then, they have lived separately and rarely visit home.
Their son is being looked after by Huân’s mother who works in the field every day.
In Ngọc Khê Commune, Ngọc Lặc District, where Hiền and Thảo live, at least 16 young people got married last year at an early age, often 15 or 16 years old.
During 2016-18, Ngọc Lặc District had 235 victims of premature marriage, mostly in Kiên Thọ, Thạch Lập, Thúy Sơn and Ngọc Khê districts.
Abandoning school at early ages to get married, many of them struggle to make ends meet.
Not only premature marriage, inter-family marriage is also common in disadvantaged areas of Thanh Hóa where people lack reproductive knowledge and law awareness.
Children of inter-family married couples might suffer from sluggish growth, deformed body parts or chronic diseases.
Thanh Hóa Province has 11 mountainous districts with nearly 621,440 ethnic minority people.
During 2011-15, the province recorded about 1,200 premature married couples and 86 inter-family married couples.
On average about 200 to 300 couples got married at an early age and 20 couples had inter-family marriage.
Poverty and isolated living conditions are among the reasons for premature and inter-family marriages.
Few ethnic minority residents know that marriage is illegal between people of the same bloodline and between relatives within three generations under the Marriage and Family Law.
Phạm Trung Dũng, chairman of Ngọc Khê Commune’s People’s Committee, said local authorities have run classes for local residents to raise their awareness about health, population and expand knowledge about family and marriage.
Communal officers visit remote areas to disseminate information and encourage locals to follow the laws on gender equality, marriage and family.
Thanks to these efforts, the number of premature and inter-family marriages in mountainous areas has declined, according to Cầm Bá Tường, deputy head of Thanh Hóa Province’s Board of Ethnic Groups.
But the marriages are still common in the most disadvantaged and remote regions.
Tường said penalties would be imposed on offenders, while heads of villages and elderly people should be encouraged to make changes in the community. — VNS