What if instead of being treated as someone’s property to be betrothed, raped, abused, sold, with no power over her destiny, a girl is healthy, safe, educated, and empowered? What if instead she has the ability to freely make informed decisions regarding whom, when and if she marries, and when and if she wants to have children? What if instead she is respected and valued by her community and is educated, able to pursue a non-exploitative career, able to invest in the economy and participate politically in a non-discriminatory atmosphere, able to live her life to the fullest based on her own choices and abilities?
Equality Now’s report (accessible here) illustrates the impact of child marriage on a girl’s young life through case studies of Jamila married at age 10 and Sahar married at age 12 in Afghanistan; Perpetua married off at birth in Cameroon; Leila and Adriana both married at 14 in Guatemala; Asma in India married at 15; Rawan married at 16 in Jordan, Evelyn in Kenya who escaped marriage at 14 years old; Beatrice married at 14 in Malawi, Mariam married at 14 in Mali; Khadijetou married at 8 and Minetou married at 12 in Mauritania; Dewan in Papua New Guinea who barely escaped marriage, Hind from Syria married at 14; and Lulu married at 14 in Tanzania. These were provided by our local partners who also made recommendations to their governments on critical steps needed to tackle the issue. The report calls on all governments to support a comprehensive response to end child marriage and ensure a girl is healthy, safe, educated and empowered and her rights are protected.
This report was written in conjunction with research carried out by law firm Latham & Watkins LLP, in many cases with the assistance of local counsel, looking into the legal position of child marriage and surrounding issues in 18 countries. The country reports look at not only the pure legal provisions relating to age of marriage, but also the extent to which they have been enforced, if at all, and the law and practice of some related issues including laws relating to bride price/dowry; statutory rape laws that are circumvented through marriage; availability of child protection services when escaping child marriage; legal requirements for registration of birth and/or marriage; and, schooling for girls. They also identify the intersection between child marriage and other social and legal issues, such as gender-based violence, human trafficking, exploitation, nationality, FGM, force feeding, etc.
The picture presented by this legal research is not encouraging. It indicates that, once married, a girl is often trapped in a system where she is at risk of further violence and discrimination. What is critical are concerted efforts by governments to prevent child marriage and stop the suffering and lost potential of millions of girls around the world.
Please add your voice to the call by taking Action on our targeted country campaigns in:
Additional Resource: UN CEDAW and CRC Recommendations on minimum age of marriage laws around the world.