UN Webcast of panel discussion on child early and forced marriage.
Ms Flavia Pansieri, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights addressed the panel via video link.
Her address is especially relevant as Ms. Pansieri pulls together the numerous root causes of child, early and forced marriage emphasizing the need for comprehensive strategies towards its elimination. One of the main recommendation of Human Rights Council Resolution on ‘Strengthening efforts to prevent and eliminate child, early and forced marriage: challenges, achievements, best practices and implementation gaps’ is the need for comprehensive approaches to eliminate it as part of the broader development agenda together with promoting equality and eliminating discrimination against all girls and women. Integrating the elimination of child, early and forced marriage into the overall development approach is critical. Target 5.3 of the Outcome Document of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals submitted to the UN General Assembly recently reads “Elimination of all harmful practices including child, early and forced marriage.” It is important that this target is retained as there are a host of human rights violations interconnected.
Within child and forced marriage the informed consent of the girl or woman is absent. This is a serious human rights violation. Access to education, information, health, services, as well as productive resources and decision making are equally at risk in child and forced marriage.
There is a need for a common understanding of the meaning of the terms – child, early and forced – based on authorative guidance from human rights mechanism.
The human rights of the girl or woman who is ‘married off’ are violated and this in turn sets up and solidifies a cycle of discrimination and denial of human rights. These rights violations have high development costs. The elimination child, early and forced marriage will require overcoming many development challenges with regard to access to education and the eradication of poverty.
In child, early and forced marriage, the marriage is a way to provide economically for girls who themselves have no autonomy, have no access to resources or income especially in situations of extreme poverty. The economic benefits of child, early and forced marriage are greater when the children are younger as the dowry is lower for younger brides.
Child and forced marriage are strongly associated with girls and women with little or no formal education, and persists where there is poor quality education, overcrowding, untrained teachers, and gender based violence. These increase the likelihood of child and forced marriage. Finding effective ways to lift communities of out of poverty and keep girls in school must be a key development priority and strategy to end child, early and forced marriage.
But this is not enough. The roots are in discrimination based on sex, and widespread stereotypes about the role girls and women have in the family and society. Sustainable development is impossible as long as the talents and skills of 50% of the population are effectively squandered.
Child and forced marriage is one of the most glaring manifestations of how discrimination and stereotypes have hindered progress for girls and women. If ‘married off’ the girl has less opportunities for education, employment, access to land and other productive resources and experiences challenges in achieving her rights Sustainable development needs to urgently address the harmful stereotypes of girls and women’s role within marriage and in society.
Child and forced marriage is a matter of health and survival. 90% of adolescent pregnancy occurs within marriage with the risk of dying either during pregnancy or in childbirth. These girls and women are not empowered to make decision about their sexual and reproduction health, cannot decide on the number and spacing of their children thus compromising their health and lives and are also exposed to sexually transmitted infections and HIV. Age appropriate, culturally relevant sexual education is essential coupled with accurate knowledge about sexual and reproductive health.
Putting the human rights of every girl and every woman at the center of sustainable development means that no girl drops out of school to get married, that each girl is fully empowered to choose if and when and whom to marry and to choose if and when to have children. Girls are equal member of society with the right to study, to work and to lead, not an economic assets or vessel of reproduction. Implementing a human rights based sustainable development agenda benefits not just the girls and women but everybody, man women and child.
Check out ‘The Girl Child’ Good Shepherd Position Papers and the L Platform from the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action The Girl Child