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. In our statement we call upon States to take all necessary actions to end the practice of child marriage by, inter alia:
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.
Statement to the Human Rights Council in Geneva by Babu Gogineni on 19 March 2007 on behalf of IHEU and WPF
''Child marriage is non-consensual sex’', Humanists International, Board of Directors, 2007