The oral statement by WPF and IHEU was one of only two during the debate on the rights of the child at the 4th session of the Human Rights Council to address the horror of child marriage.
World Population Foundation
Joint statement with International Humanist and Ethical Union, Association for Word Education and the Association of World Citizens
Human Rights Council, Fourth Session 14-30 March 2007
Debate on Related Issues, 21 March 2007 pm
Statement by WPF representative, Roy W. Brown, 19 March 2007 pm.
In the context of the reports on education and violence against women we wish to return to the issue of child marriage.
The practice of child marriage has all but disappeared from Western society, but is still all too prevalent elsewhere. It runs hand in hand with other forms of violence against girls and young women.
Girls aged l0-14 are five times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than women aged 20-24. Young girls whose bodies are not ready for pregnancy and childbirth can suffer complications such as obstructed labour and obstetric fistula. Girls who marry while still children have been shown to be more at risk from HIV-AIDS infection, and to be more likely to be subject to domestic violence and to suffer psychological damage than girls who marry later. Whether or not the practice of child marriage and its related abuses are justified by culture, tradition or religious belief, the fact remains that thousands of girls are suffering and dying as a result of this practice.
Child marriage, like forced marriage, or rape, is a form of non-consensual sex, and an abuse of human rights. It is prohibited by a number of international conventions. Nevertheless, it is estimated that within the next ten years more than 100 million girls are likely to be married before the age of 18.
I refer to our joint written statement on this issue [A/HRC/4/NGO/84], copies of which are available here. In our statement we call upon States to take all necessary actions to end the practice of child marriage by, inter alia:
• Fully implementing all of the relevant Human Rights Conventions
• Rectifying the legislative loopholes between religious, customary and civil marriages
• Introducing laws to raise the legal age of marriage to 18 years
• Raising the awareness of all, including parents, on the negative impacts of child marriage
• Promoting gender equality and the right of girls and young women to education
Mr President, the Convention on the Rights of the Child has many weaknesses. The convention and its optional protocols should therefore be seen not as a target to which states may some day aspire, but as a minimum set of standards to which all should adhere.
Thank you, sir