Plan International, CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, and Girls Not Brides welcome the adoption, on 8 October 2021, of the Human Rights Council’s (HRC) fifth resolution on child, early and forced marriage (CEFM).
The resolution, led by the Netherlands, was adopted by consensus with 74 co-sponsors and broad cross-regional engagement, calling on UN Member States to strengthen and accelerate action to address CEFM, with a focus on the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The CEFM resolution is important because it maintains international pressure on member states and holds them to account on their commitment to end child marriage within a framework of human rights. Some of the key challenges were around the inclusion of strong language on girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights – including on bodily autonomy and comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) – as well as on their participation in decision-making.
During the process, civil society organisations played a key role in calling on governments to support the resolution and adopt the strongest possible language to protect girls’ human rights.
The Permanent Representation of the Netherlands in Geneva thanks all partners from Girls Not Brides for their support and cooperation on the resolution on child, early and forced marriage in times of crisis, including the COVID-19 pandemic, presented at the 48th session of the Human Rights Council. Your crucial work on this important topic is so important when we are trying to eliminate child marriages worldwide. Let’s end child marriage together!Simone Gerrits, Permanent Representation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN in Geneva
What does this resolution say about child marriage?
This year’s resolution retains gains made in the 2019 child, early and forced marriage resolution at the HRC and includes important additions responding to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on efforts to end the practice. In particular it:
- Highlights how the ‘COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated pre-existing forms of inequality and systemic gender-based discrimination faced by women and girls’ such as CEFM, and calls for states to ‘take comprehensive, multisectoral and rights-based measures to prevent and eliminate [CEFM]’.
- Mentions for the first time in a resolution on CEFM the right to sexual and reproductive health, as well as reproductive rights without qualifiers.
- Acknowledges the concerning ‘disregard for women’s dignity, bodily integrity and autonomy, that are among the primary causes of child, early and forced marriage’.
- Raises concerns about how CEFM exposes women and girls to marital rape and intimate partner violence (IPV),
- Contains strong language on the right of girls to ‘fully, effectively and meaningfully’ participate in decision-making, which is a big win, as some Member States have resisted acknowledging this right for girls,
What does the resolution call on the UN and member states to do?
The resolution calls for governments and the international community to take specific actions, including:
- Calling ‘upon States to take a comprehensive, rights-based, age- and gender responsive, survivor- and victim-centred and multisectoral approach, in consultation with, and with the full, equal, effective, meaningful and inclusive participation of, women and girls’
- Urges States to ‘ensure access to justice and accountability mechanisms and remedies’ for women and girls who are victims of CEFM
- Requesting the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to organise a two-day workshop and correlating report on the adverse impact of forced marriage on the full realisation of all human rights by women and girls.
Which countries co-sponsored the resolution?
The following countries co-sponsored the Resolution:
Albania,* Argentina, Australia,* Austria, Belgium,* Bosnia and Herzegovina,* Bulgaria, Canada,* Chile,* Costa Rica,* Croatia,* Cyprus,* Czechia, Denmark, Dominican Republic,* Ecuador,* Estonia,* Fiji, Finland,* Georgia,* Germany, Greece,* Haiti,* Honduras,* Hungary,* Iceland,* Ireland,* Italy, Latvia,* Liechtenstein,* Lithuania,* Luxembourg,* Malta,* Mexico, Monaco,* Montenegro,* Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand,* North Macedonia,* Norway,* Peru,* Poland, Portugal,* Romania,* San Marino,* Sierra Leone,* Slovakia,* Slovenia,* Spain,* Sweden,* Switzerland,* Thailand,* Tunisia,* Turkey,* Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America,* Uruguay and State of Palestine*
This resolution is crucial in keeping up international pressure on member states to implement their commitment to end child marriage. Use this as an opportunity to call child marriage to the attention of your government by urging them to act using Girls Not Brides' template letter.
In the time it has taken to read this article 44 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
Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage