Parliamentarians from 13 countries in South Asia vow to end child marriage

Delegates at the South Asian Parliamentarians' Meeting on Child Marriage in Kathmandu, Nepal, on 22-23 March, 2016 | Photo credit: Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development

How can parliamentarians accelerate collective efforts to end child marriage across South Asia? This is the question that 25 Members of Parliament from 13 countries sought to answer at a two-day conference in Nepal, last week.

Organised by the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development, the conference stressed the importance of designing laws and policies that promote accountability and accelerate collective efforts at the national and sub-regional levels for ending child marriage.

Recognising child marriage as a grave violation of human rights, an unlawful harmful practice, and a severe form of violence against children, parliamentarians endorsed the Kathmandu Declaration. In summary, the commitment reflected the will of the parliamentarians to:

  • Ensure all States adopt and implement a comprehensive and harmonised set of laws that establish the minimum age for marriage at 18, for all genders; define child marriage in accordance with international standards; and end impunity for early, child, and forced marriage;
  • Increase the active and meaningful participation of women and girls in civic, political, and social life, and provide for free and compulsory school enrolment and attendance, incorporating comprehensive sexuality and reproductive health education for all, and developing alternative and vocational programs to reach children who are no longer in formal education.

To achieve these commitments, the parliamentarians committed to:

  • Fostering collaboration, partnerships and interdependence among branches of government;
  • Creating and supporting partnerships between government, political parties, regional and national human rights institutions, local community leaders, faith communities, civil society organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and inter-governmental and donor organisations;
  • Creating holistic, effective, and sustainable solutions to the root causes of early, child, and forced marriage.

The full declaration was made available at the closing session of the conference, and is also posted on AFPPD’s official website: www.afppd.org.

The event also saw the launch of a new report: “Parliamentary Good Practices for Effective Implementation of Laws and Policies for Prevention of Child Marriage.”

The report aims to address the root causes of child marriage, identify barriers and obstacles to the effective implementation of relevant laws and policies, and assess a variety of programmatic and policy approaches to address child marriage, with a particular focus on measurable, proven results.