In July 2023, at its 53rd session, the UN Human Rights Council adopted its sixth resolution on child, early and forced marriage (CEFM), this time with a specific focus on ending and preventing forced marriage. Led by the Netherlands and a core group of UN member states, the resolution was adopted by consensus and was co-sponsored by a total of 78 states.
Civil society organisations played a key role in advocating for a strong and comprehensive Resolution, and in calling on governments to support the resolution. It is now critical that we work with governments to ensure these commitments are implemented.
Summary of key aspects of the resolution
The resolution builds on previous HRC and UNGA CEFM resolutions. Key gains include increased attention to the importance of ensuring full, free and informed consent; stronger language related to equal rights in marriage (property, inheritance, managing assets) and the dissolution of marriage (including in relation to matrimonial property, the custody of children and the right to marry, including after a divorce); recognition of forced marriage as a form of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls; strengthened language on the impact of gender stereotypes; link to climate change and biodiversity loss; and references to (misconceptions of) masculinity.
Other notable aspects of the resolution
In addition, the resolution:
- Notes the importance of tackling CEFM in relation to target 5.3 of the SDGs.
- Recognises that in some contexts the practice of CFEM make include informal unions, cohabitation or other arrangements that are nor formalised, registered or recognised by a religious, customary or State authority, and that such arrangements should be addressed in policies and programmes;
- Notes the role of armed conflict, poverty, and humanitarian settings and other crises, including climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental degradation, in driving forced marriage;
- Urges States to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of all women and girls to have control over matters relating to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence, and with respect to their bodily integrity, autonomy and agency;
- Calls upon States to promote and protect the right of all women and girls to inclusive, equitable and quality education, including free primary and secondary education, to eliminate gender disparities in enrolment and gender-based bias and stereotypes in education systems, curricula and materials; and ensure that married and/or pregnant adolescents and young mothers, as well as single, divorced, separated or widowed mothers, can continue and complete their education after childbirth, marriage or the dissolution of marriage;
- Urges States to tackle poverty, the lack of economic opportunities for women and girls and other entrenched economic incentives and inequalities that act as drivers of forced marriage;
- Calls upon States to ensure that all initiatives regarding criminal laws addressing forced marriage are part of comprehensive, rights-based, gender-responsive and cross-government prevention and response strategies and to ensure that they never face criminalization;
- Urges States to ensure access to justice and accountability mechanisms and remedies and protect the rights of those subjected to forced marriage;
- Urges States to hold persons in positions of authority accountable for not complying with laws and regulations relating to violence against women and girls, including concerning forced marriage;
- Encourages States to engage, educate, encourage and support men and boys to be positive role models for gender equality and promote respectful relationships;
- Calls upon States to ensure the timely registration of births and marriages, including by providing mechanisms for the registration of customary and religious marriages;
- Encourages States to increase public funding and capacity-building support for community-based organizations, and calls upon States to promote the meaningful participation of children, women, adolescents and young people, including girls who are already married, on all issues affecting them;
The resolution also requests the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare concise and action-oriented guidelines for States to develop and implement laws, policies and programmes to prevent and eliminate CEFM, including through open, transparent and inclusive consultation with States, UN entities, CSOs and other appropriate stakeholders to be presented as a report to the Human Rights Council at its fifty-ninth session.
Which countries co-sponsored the 2023 HRC resolution on forced marriage?
Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Dominic Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Nepal, Netherlands (Kingdom of the), New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Turkiye, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, Uruguay, Vietnam.
Compared to the 2021 HRC CEFM resolution, the 2023 resolution was co-sponsored by 8 new states: Benin, Brazil, Colombia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Togo and Vietnam. However, 14 co-sponsors of the 2021 HRC Resolution did not sponsor the 2023 resolution: Angola, Chad, El Salvador, Haiti, Israel, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Palau, South Africa, State of Palestine, Timor Leste, Tunisia, Uganda.
In the time it has taken to read this article 52 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