Child, Early and Forced Marriage

By Jenna Lodge Foster, World YWCA Short-Term Advocacy Intern. Jenna is currently attending the 23rd Session of the Human Rights Council  (HRC) in Geneva, Switzerland and below shares her reflects a HRC side event organised by the World YWCA, Plan International, UNFPA and various Permanent Missions to the United Nations including Canada and others.

The issue of child, early and forced marriage is gaining popularity as more countries shed light on such a violation of the Rights of the Child.  Flavia Pansieri, UN Deputy Commissioner for Human rights, opened an intriguing session on Child, Early, and Forced Marriage, sponsored by Plan International and co-sponsored by the World YWCA.

Jenna Lodge Foster

Jenna Lodge Foster

Child, early, and forced marriages happen around the world. Did you know that 10 million girls are married before the age of 18? Marriages are sometimes with men who are 2-3 times their age. 46% of girls under 18 are married in South Asia. 1 in 3 girls will be married before their 15th birthday.

This topic is considered to be an egregious is some countries while others see it as a right of passage for men. The more basic problem is that the early marriage of girls impacts of the other realms of life. Girls are pulled out of school early, not giving them the opportunity to complete their education and rise to their full potential.  There is an expectation from the families they are married into to have children. This can have serious implications on a girls’ physical, emotional, and psychological well-being.  Economic empowerment is decreased. The potential to be autonomous is greatly reduced. Girls may be forced to stay at home, leaving them to be completely reliant on their husbands.

If marriages continue at this rate, more than 140 million girls under the age of  18 will be married by 2020. This is an alarming statistic. NGO’s, governments, and communities must be willing to raise this issue and protect the rights of girls. As an advocate for women and girls, it is vital that NGOs like the YWCA cultivate strong advocates to rally around girls to protect them, empower them, and raise awareness about this issue to reduce this occurrence.