Advocacy statements

Joint statement on child marriage

Joint statement by Center for Inquiry, British Humanist Association and International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: 22nd Session, 25 February to 22 March 2013

Speaker: CFI Representative, Elizabeth O’Casey, Wednesday 7 March 2013

Annual Full-day meeting on the Rights of the Child – Health Challenges

Child Marriage

Mr President

The highly respected group, the Elders, has said,[1] “Child marriage is a clear violation of human rights, including the rights to life, liberty, self-determination and health”…. “Six of the eight Millennium Development Goals are directly and negatively affected by the huge prevalence of child marriage.”

Child marriage has its roots in the tribal practices of the distant past and is surely one of the most egregious examples of the conflict between traditional values and human rights.

Child marriage is always forced marriage – because no child can give meaningful consent to a decision that will affect the whole of her adult life. It is contrary to Articles 6, 19, 24, 28, 29, 31 and 34 of the CRC.

We have heard from WHO,[2] UNFPA,[3] UNICEF,[4]and from numerous NGOs[5] of the appalling effects of child marriage on the health, education and economic well-being of child brides and their families. But what has been missing is a clear condemnation of child marriage from this Council.

Child marriage is one of the primary causes of maternal mortality and morbidity, claiming the lives of more than 1000 women and young girls every single day. [Yet girls are often treated as commodities or property, being married to settle their fathers’ debts, and there are even cases of older men exchanging daughters for marriage.]

A girl under 15 who gives birth is still five times more likely to die in childbirth than a woman in her twenties. [Even if she does not die, she is also much more likely to suffer from severe ill health, including obstetric fistula. The children of young mothers are also much more likely to die within their first year.]

We refer to our written statements [A/HRC/  /NGO/  and A/HRC/22/NGO] which make specific recommendations for ending this practice.

Millions of girl children are still being married every year, and too often within the territory of member States of this Council. States that permit child marriage, Mr President, are condoning rape.

It is the duty of all States that have any respect for human rights to work far harder to eliminate this scourge.

Thank you, Sir.


[1] www.theelders.org/child-marriage

[2] http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/adolescence/idgc/en/

[3] http://www.unfpa.org/public/home/publications/pid/12166

[4] http://www.un.org/en/events/girlchild/pdf/UNICEF_Child%20Marriage%20Programme%20Brief.pdf

[5] See for example:  www.girlsnotbrides.org/  or:  www.care.org/campaigns/childmarriage

Suggested academic reference

'Joint statement on child marriage', Humanists International

WordPress theme developer - whois: Andy White London