IHEU has reminded the UN Human Rights Council that 100 million girls will be victims of ‘child marriage’ in the next decade, on present trends. Our delegation called for States to act to end the “appalling practice”.
In her report on Contemporary Forms of Slavery to the Human Rights Council (Geneva, 13 September 2012) the special rapporteur Ms Gulnar Shahinian focused on what she called “servile marriage” and the plight of young girls married before their 18th birthday, almost always to older men.
Responding on behalf of IHEU, our Head of Delegation Roy Brown welcomed Ms Shahinian’s report and noted that if present trends continue, some 100 million girls will be subjected to this abuse of their human rights over the next 10 years. Here is the full text of IHEU’s statement:
UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: 21st Session, 10 Sept to 28 Sept 2012
Speaker: IHEU Main Representative, Roy Brown, Thursday 13 September 2012
Interactive Dialogue on Contemporary Forms of Slavery: Child Marriage
We thank the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of slavery, Ms Gulnar Shahinian for focusing her report on the scourge of servile marriage and on child marriage in particular. Child marriage is always forced marriage because children still under the moral, physical and legal control of their parents are unable to give meaningful consent as required by Article 23 of the ICCPR. Sadly child marriage is prevalent in many States including those which have laws prohibiting the practice.
The worst forms of abuse occur where a young girl is married to an adult man and suffers rape by her “husband” with the risk of early pregnancy. Early pregnancy is one of the major causes of infant and maternal mortality and of maternal morbidity.
Girls giving birth under the age of 15 are five times more likely to die than women in their 20s, and pregnancy is the leading cause of death for girls aged 15—19 . They are also most likely to suffer from distressing and disabling obstetric fistula.
The “marriage” of young girls to older men is a sign of flagrant discrimination. Girls should not be treated as the property of their parents, nor passed on as property to another household, for example in payment of a debt.
If present trends continue, some 100 million girls will suffer this form of abuse in the next decade. Many will die as a result; others will be severely injured physically or damaged emotionally and mentally. Most will be denied their right to education, more or less guaranteeing a continued cycle of poverty, ignorance and abuse.
We call upon States to do everything possible to suppress this appalling practice and to ensure the full and equal rights of the girl child.
Thank you, Madam President