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Urgent action needed to end child marriage, Human Rights Watch writes to Afghan President

Afghan President Hamid Karzai should take urgent action to end child marriage and domestic violence or risk further harm to development and public health in Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch, member of Girls Not Brides, said today in a letter to the president.

In an accompanying briefing paper “Afghanistan: Ending Child Marriage and Domestic Violence”, Human Rights Watch presents evidence on the negative impact of child marriage on the health and economic wellbeing of women and girls, and urges the President to fully enforce the Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Adopted in 2009, the EVAW Law was the first of its kind in Afghanistan, imposing tough new penalties on violence against women and criminalising child marriage, a practice which, according to UNICEF’s 2013 State of the World’s Children, affects 40% of Afghan girls.

“By ensuring the law is enforced, [President] Karzai would leave a lasting legacy of support for the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan”, said Liesl Gerntholtz, women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch.

In its letter, Human Rights Watch encouraged President Karzai to adopt measures to help prevent child marriage and protect women and girls from violence, including:

  • Supporting the passage of a law that would set the minimum age for marriage at 18 for both girls and boys
  • Launching a country-wide awareness campaign about the negative effects of child marriage, including the risk of maternal death, fistula, and infant death or poor health

Read the press release.

Read the letter.

Read the briefing paper (15 pages).