Birth, marriage, and death are the standard trio of key events in most people’s lives. But only one – marriage – is a matter of choice. The right to exercise that choice was recognised as a principle of law even in Roman times and has long been established in international human rights instruments (Umemoto et al., 2001).
Before we start to discuss early and late marriage, it is better to know the definition of early and late marriage themselves. Early marriage is a marriage performed not only at an early age, but also at a moment when performers of early marriage are not mature enough to take responsibilities. Early marriage can also be defined as an act of marriage that the performers pay little attention to the effects brought about by early marriage to their lives. For instance, performers have several goals to achieve before getting married, but they would not mind if they got married before their goals are attained.
Late marriage, however, is an act of marriage performed at a mature age, not old age. Maturity can be obtained at an earlier age, which is why I do not describe late marriage as marriage at an old age. Late marriage, too, can be defined as marriage that the performers consider things beforehand.
Here in this essay, I would like to discuss about marriage: early and late marriage; and why people choose either early or late marriage along with their reasons.
Since I have previously discussed about the definition of early marriage before, here I am going to discuss about the advantages and disadvantages of early marriage according to some people who perform this kind of marriage, and where early marriage is usually exercised.
One of the advantages of early marriage is when the bride is sent to her in-laws’ house, it is easier for the child-bride to adapt to her husband’s house and therefore have better chances for a happy marriage (Zhang: 2008). Another advantage is that the early-weds can avoid evils such as fornication, rapes, and the like.
People who choose this kind of marriage believe that they will never be ready of marriage, so they choose to force the marriage. They also believe that marriage can even inspire their lives. They will have someone who always stands by their sides and supports them.
Nevertheless, early marriage also have several drawbacks. One of them is the increasing number of cheating and divorce. Performers of early marriage are definitely at such a young and immature age when they get married. Some of them have not even come to pubertal phase. When they do, they will find other opposite sex than their spouses. Why other person? Because they have lived with their spouses long enough and they feel the attack of boredom of their spouses.
The disadvantages of early marriage are mostly encountered by girls. They are forced to be married at such an early age, they have not even known their rights. They cannot differentiate which one is good for them and which one is bad. Also, some people think that girls forced to be married early are the victims of child’s exploitation.
What makes early marriage worse for girls is the early pregnancy and early maternity. Early pregnancy will affect their health –they still have inadequate wombs to bear a child. Also, by the time the girls reach their twenties, they already look close to forty years of age due to multiple pregnancies, household work and inadequate nutrition which take their toll on them (Zhang: 2008).
Countries that apply this kind of marriage are some Asian countries, Middle-East countries, and some African countries. Why do I say some Asian countries? Because in this modern age, influenced by globalisation, many parts of Asian countries do not believe in early marriage. In Indonesia, for example, there are still many parts which people still apply this kind of marriage. But there are definitely some of them who are opposed to this kind of marriage, especially those who live in big cities such as Jakarta, Bandung, Medan, Surabaya, and Denpasar.
In Middle-East countries, they believe marriage to be a prevention of fornication. That is why there are still many parents who force their children to be married at a young age, although there are also some parents who do not force their children to be married early. Those parents who do not apply early marriage to their children are mostly open-minded, while those who still apply it are conservative.
In Africa, early marriage is generally more prevalent in Central and West Africa – affecting 40 per cent and 49 per cent respectively of girls under 19 – compared to 27 per cent in East Africa and 20 per cent in North and Southern Africa. Many of these young brides are second or third wives in polygamous households (Umemoto et al: 2001). However, some countries in Africa have started to apply late marriage after the campaign against HIV/AIDS.
Montaigne says in his Essays, that “a good marriage would be between a blind wife and a deaf husband.” Such humour is true. She does not see his faults and he is spared her sharp tongue. Unfortunately, for the state of marriage for many people, such knowledge comes too late. That is why late marriage is more desirable. Late can mean several things but here I ascribe to the view meaning maturity and not marriage at an old age.
Similar to early marriage, late marriage also has several benefits and drawbacks. As I mentioned before, late marriage is a marriage where the performers are mature enough to take responsibilities, whether they are old or even still young. One of the advantages of marriage at a mature age is the performers have known themselves very well. They are well-educated about married lives. They will also live their marriage in reality, not a dream.
Another benefit is the performers can reach their goals, aims, or aspirations before they step onto the phase of marriage. For females, they will have already transformed from girls to women, which is very beneficial for them. If they plan to bear a child, this is the perfect time, since their wombs are strong and healthy enough to keep an embryo within.
The other advantage of late marriage is the prevention of cheating and divorce. The performers of late marriage usually have known their partners well before they are married. They have encountered and solved their problems with their partners, so they will be accustomed to solving things together when they are married.
Nonetheless, everything has its own benefits and disadvantages. Late marriage, too, have several disadvantages. In my own opinion, especially for women who exercise late marriage, they have reached their on-the-edge age when they are married, which troubles them in giving birth. Not to mention, women have a limited fertility phase; they will encounter menopause.
Late marriage can also trigger free sex. People who apply this principle sometimes choose to live together with their partners. If they meet confrontation against each other, it will lead to separation. This separation is similar to divorce in marriage, but they do not have to file it to the court.
People who apply this marriage are those who want to reach their aspirations before they are married. There are many people who have goals to achieve while they are still single, and some of them fear that marriage will hamper their achieving the goals.
Countries that apply this kind of marriage are mostly European and American countries. They believe that marriage is sacred, and should be struggled. In Europe, when a European man states he wants to get married, this means he is serious with it. In America, although teenage pregnancies are increasing, they do not get married because they know they are not mature enough for marriage.
To sum up, both early and late marriage have benefits and disadvantages. It is just a matter of how people see them from their points of views. Which marriage would you choose?
Umemoto et al. 2001. Early Marriage – Child Spouses. Italy: UNICEF.
Zhang, J. 2008. Early Marriage – The Benefits and Disadvantages. From http://ezinearticles.com/?Early-Marriage—The-Benefits-And-Disadvantages&id=1016812 (accessed: 10 April 2012, 10:00 a.m.)