The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released its first-ever report on preventing and eliminating child, early and forced marriage, which looks at achievements and best practices, as well as outstanding challenges and gaps in implementation.
The report provides a definition of child, early and forced marriage, sets out the international norms and standards related to child, early and forced marriage and the human rights impact of the practice on women and girls. It also makes recommendations to prevent and eliminate the practice.
The report, requested by the Human Rights Council following the adoption of its first resolution on child, early and forced marriage in September 2013, was prepared in consultation with a variety of stakeholders including a number of Girls Not Brides member organisations. The full list of submissions by civil society organisations is available here.
Watch live: child, early and forced marriage panel discussion at the Human Rights Council
Importantly, the report will feed into the Human Rights Council’s first panel discussion on child, early and forced marriage, which will take place on 23 June 2014 in Geneva. You can watch the panel on the day, from 1500 to 1800 (GMT).
The panel will discuss best practices, outstanding challenges and gaps in implementing laws on child marriage. In particular, it will focus on how to tackle the root causes of child marriage, the intricacies of developing an effective legal framework that complies with human rights standards, and the promotion of successful programmatic interventions. Read the concept note here.
Confirmed panellists include Ms. Violetta Neubauer, Chair of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) Working group on Harmful Practices, and Soyata Maiga, Special Rapporteur on the rights of women at the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights.
A summary report from the panel will be presented to the UN General Assembly for its consideration in September.
Recommendations to end child, early and forced marriage
The report makes the following recommendations to effectively address child, early and forced marriage:
53. Comprehensive and coordinated approaches are needed in order to effectively address child, early and forced marriage. It is recommended that national policies and strategies be developed and implemented with the involvement of relevant government departments at the national and local levels, civil society organizations, including women’s groups, religious and community leaders, national human rights institutions and other relevant stakeholders, including legislators and the judiciary.
54. Policy and protection measures, action and strategies should be guided by the best interests of the child, be context-appropriate and in accordance with international human rights standards. They should be part of broader efforts to promote equality and eliminate discrimination against women and girls not only in access to education, but also, inter alia, in the areas of employment, political participation, health, access to inheritance, land and productive resources. Such policies and plans, as appropriate, should encompass the following broad areas of focus:
(a) Ensuring a national legal framework in line with international human rights standards, including with regard to the age of majority and the legal age for marriage for girls and boys, the prohibition of forced marriage and birth and marriage registration;
(b) Harmonizing national laws on marriage, including by amending existing laws to remove legal obstacles faced by girls who seek the enforcement of national laws on child marriage prevention or prohibition and legal remedies; removing unreasonable legal requirements for formally ending a child marriage; and providing access to remedies for those who leave a marriage;
(c) Promoting girls’ access to high-quality education, in accordance with relevant international standards, including tailored reintegration programmes for girls who are forced to drop out of school owing to marriage and/or childbirth; the provision of economic support and incentives to girls attending schools and to their families has proven to be effective in allowing girls to pursue higher education and delay marriage;
(d) Promoting women’s economic empowerment and access to productive resources, including by addressing discriminatory norms and practices in this regard.
(e) Addressing the widespread cultural and social acceptance of child, early and forced marriage, including by raising awareness of its harm to the victims and the cost to society at large and by providing platforms and opportunities for discussion within communities and families on the benefits of delaying marriage and ensuring that girls receive education. The involvement of older women and of religious and community leaders, and the engagement of men and boys as key participants in these efforts is essential;
(f) Providing age-appropriate, culturally relevant and empirically based comprehensive education on sexuality, sexual and reproductive health, gender equality and life-skills training for women and girls, and ensuring that women and girls are made aware of and have the capacity to claim and exercise their rights in relation to marriage;
(g) Supporting the establishment of networks to facilitate the exchange of information between girls and young women on child, early and forced marriage through the innovative use of technology;
(h) Implementing training programmes for government officials, the judiciary, law enforcement and other State officials, teachers, health and other service workers, those working with immigrants and asylum seekers, and relevant professionals and sectors on how to identify girls at risk or actual victims and on applicable legislation and prevention and care measures;
(i)Providing adequate financial resources and support to comprehensive programmes to address child, early and forced marriage, including those aimed at married girls and those within indigenous and rural communities, in cooperation with United Nations agencies, regional organizations, civil society organizations and other relevant stakeholders;
(j) Improving data collection, research and dissemination of existing good practices and ensuring a clear analysis and assessment of the impact of existing policies and programmes as a means of strengthening them, ensuring their effectiveness and monitoring their implementation.
In the time it has taken to read this article 60 girls under the age of 18 have been married
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18
That is 23 girls every minute
Nearly 1 every 2 seconds