U.N. General Assembly Adopts Resolution to End Child, Early, and Forced Marriage Worldwide

(PRESS RELEASE) Today the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) reaffirmed its commitment to eliminating child, early and forced marriage globally with a new resolution that calls on states to strengthen laws and policies to protect women and girls from this harmful practice.

Over 100 states sponsored the UNGA resolution which identifies gender inequality among the root causes of child, early and forced marriage. The resolution calls on all states to enact and enforce laws requiring a minimum age for marriage and ensure access to justice for women and girls who are at risk or have been subjected to this harmful practice. The resolution also urges states to respect, promote, and protect the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all women and those girls subjected to child, early and forced marriage.

This is the second resolution from the U.N. General Assembly calling on governments to take substantive legal and policy measures to prevent and eradicate child, early, and forced marriage. The resolution follows the 2015 global commitment to eradicate child, early, and forced marriage as part of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and a Human Rights Council resolution in 2015.

Said Meera Shah, global advocacy adviser at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“No woman or girl can fully realize her fundamental human rights if she is forced or coerced into marriage.

“We welcome this new resolution that recognizes the importance of ensuring the reproductive health and rights of women and girls and hope it compels the United Nations to do more to prevent and address child, early and forced marriage.

“The United Nations must now ensure that these global commitments are put into practice. States must prioritize the human rights of all women and girls, and work at all levels to eradicate child marriage once and for all.” 

The UNGA resolution highlights the importance of implementing policies at both the international and regional levels to end the illegal practice, noting the adoption of the Regional Action Plan to End Child Marriage in South Asia and the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage—both initiatives recognizing child marriage as a regional human rights concern and declaring the eradication of the practice a regional priority.  The resolution also calls on states to promote and protect the human rights of all women and girls, including their right to education by ensuring access to schooling for pregnant or married girls.

The Center for Reproductive Rights contributed to the development of the Regional Action Plan to End Child Marriage in South Asia and the subsequent Kathmandu Call for Action to End Child Marriage in South Asia. The Center and the South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children held a regional convening on using the law to promote accountability to end child marriage in September 2016. The convening—hosted by the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare and the Government of Nepal—brought together government officials and other stakeholders in the region to discuss the actions and progress taken by governments to eradicate child marriage.

The Center has examined the human rights implications of child marriage, a practice which often subjects girls to heinous abuses, including domestic violence, marital rape, and early and frequent pregnancy, placing their reproductive health and survival at serious risk.

Child Marriage in South Asia: Stop the Impunity focuses on the violations of women and girls’ fundamental human rights—including their reproductive rights—that stem from child marriage in the region. Despite international and local laws clearly condemning child marriage, South Asian countries’ refusal to address this illegal practice could lead to a projected 130 million young girls being married against their will by 2030.

Forced Out: Mandatory Pregnancy Testing and the Expulsion of Pregnant Students in Tanzanian Schools reports on the expulsion of pregnant girls from school and the serious human rights implications of the practice, of which child brides face the highest risk.

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