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A HISTORIC step forward by the United Nations in New York to address child, early and forced marriage, has been welcomed by child rights organisation, Plan International.
The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution dedicated to the issue of child, early and forced marriage – the first in its history – on Thursday 21 November.
The new resolution calls for a panel discussion to be held next year in New York focusing on the issue of child, early and forced marriage worldwide, and the post-2015 development agenda.
Plan welcomes a panel discussion on the issue, including the call to include the input of civil society and relevant children’s and youth organisations to the panel, as another means to ensure the issue of child, early and forced marriage, and the urgent need to end it, stays on the international agenda.
The resolution was unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly, with the support of 109 States. It signifies yet another milestone in the international effort to end the harmful practice of child, early and forced marriage.
The resolution builds on the recent decision taken by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, on the issue in September.
Plan believes these recent resolutions focused on child, early and forced marriage, and the broad international support they achieved, should be used to support prevention programming. They should also support national policy change that will ensure the minimum age of marriage is 18 for both girls and boys, with or without parental consent and that children, families and communities are an active part of the solution.
Child marriage is a global issue which the UN predicts will lead to more than 140 million girls becoming child brides in the decade leading up to 2020 if allowed to continue. This equates to 14 million child brides every year or nearly 39,000 girls married every day.
According to Plan’s report, A girl’s right to say no to marriage, published earlier this year, child marriage negatively affects young girls in many ways, including robbing them of their rights to health and protection from violence, as well as their childhood more broadly. Child marriage is associated with higher rates of violence, abuse, and forced sexual relations, putting girls at risk of sexually transmitted diseases, early pregnancy and even death.
Every year, nearly 13.7 million 15-19 year olds in the developing world give birth while married, with potentially harrowing consequences. Complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the key cause of death for these girls, while babies born to young mothers are more likely to be stillborn, premature or are at a heightened risk of dying.
Child marriage also forces girls to leave school early, robbing them of their right to an education. According to Plan, education helps to delay child marriage, with evidence suggesting the more education a girl receives, the less likely she is to be married before the age of 18.
Nigel Chapman, CEO of Plan International, says:
“Child marriage is a serious violation of children’s rights, one that disproportionately affects girls around the world and prevents them from completing their education. Education is considered one of the most important factors in delaying the age of marriage of girls, and giving girls more choices and opportunities. We want to ensure that all children can fulfil their right to a quality education, in a safe and supportive environment.”
Plan’s Because I am a Girl campaign aims to ensure that girls receive a quality primary education and can safely transition to, and successfully complete, a quality secondary school education. It seeks to enable girls to have more choices in life, to allow them to play an active role in the community, to participate in decisions that affect them, and to break intergenerational cycles of poverty, insecurity and ill health.