This HRC Resolution on Forced Marriage will be adopted in a context in which, globally, child marriage has seen a decline. Currently, one in five young women aged 20 to 24 were married before age 18, compared to nearly one in four a decade ago. Nevertheless, as we reach the midpoint for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 agenda, significant challenges remain in ending child, early and forced marriage and unions (CEFMU). While progress has been made worldwide, at the current rate it would take another 300 years to end to child marriage.
To garner support for the HRC Resolution on Forced Marriage, Girls Not Brides, in collaboration with Equality Now, will host an in-person side event at the Human Rights Council on 22 June, focusing on education and child marriage – if you are in Geneva, then do join us!
The Human Rights Council also presents further opportunities to influence global action to end CEFMU. Girls Not Brides members submitted written statements to three HRC interactive dialogues with three UN Special Rapporteurs, who are due to present their annual reports on key areas of concern for child marriage: education, violence against women and girls, and gender persecution in Afghanistan. Check out our summaries below.
Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education
This year’s report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Education to the HRC focuses on advances and challenges to fulfilling the right to education.
Child marriage is both a cause and consequence of girls' lack of educational opportunities – girls may drop out of school because they are forced to get married, or they may be married off because they do not have a chance to go to school. Keeping girls in school is one of the best ways to delay marriage.
Girls Not Brides member organisations urge HRC member states to ensure that work to end child marriage and keep girls in school is holistic, intersectional and gender-transformative. This work needs to address shared underlying drivers of CEFMU, such as inequality and discriminatory gender norms, poverty, adolescent pregnancy, school-related gender-based violence, conflict and humanitarian crises, and disease outbreaks.
This requires not only adequate financing of educational systems, particularly for girls from marginalised communities, but also laws and policies that ensure safe access to quality and gender-transformative education, including age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education, removing discriminatory educational barriers for pregnant/married girls, and support community sensitisation on the importance of girls’ education and delaying marriage.
Read the full written statement for the interactive dialogue on the right to education and the recommendations for states.
Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls (VAWG)
The 2023 report of the UN Special Rapporteur on VAWG to the HRC focuses on VAWG, violence against children and custody.
Girls Not Brides members’ submission responding to this report highlights the relationship between the mis-enforcement of custody rights and the dissolution of CEFMU, particularly in the context of domestic violence. This is given that separation, and/or fear of being separated, from their children may represent a contributing factor which keeps women and girls from ending a union or marriage. Laws and policies that favour men, further reinforced by harmful gender societal norms and expectations, contribute to this fear and therefore serves to perpetuate CEFMU.
Custody of children can be a particular obstacle to women’s and girls’ access to justice when deciding to end a marriage or union. For example, judicial systems fraught with cultural biases and gender stereotypes often leads to the re-victimisation of mothers and their children and even forces them to reconcile with their aggressors.
States must effectively guarantee access to justice for women and girls to enable them to exercise their right to dissolve a marriage or union without risking their integrity and safety, or that of their children. This includes ensuring that family court judges undertake mandatory training on gender bias and domestic violence, including its impact on children. In all custody cases, the principle of the best interest of the child should be effectively enforced, as a substantive right, a fundamental interpretative legal principle, and a rule of procedure, in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Read the full written statement for the interactive dialogue on violence against women and girls and the recommendations for states
Joint report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan and the UN Working Group (UNWG) on Discrimination against Women and Girls
The joint report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan and the UNWG on Discrimination against Women and Girls will focus on gender persecution in Afghanistan, where girls are increasingly at risk of child marriage.
The scope, magnitude and severity of gender segregation and discrimination policies pursued by the Taliban, the current de facto authorities in Afghanistan, have created a system of gender-based persecution, where discrimination against girls and women is institutionalised and flows from policies dictated by, and practices entertained by, the Taliban, who have enforced a male-dominated political system.
The dire restrictions on girls’ and women’s rights and the economic and humanitarian crises in Afghanistan under the Taliban have contributed to a surge in CEFMU. Poverty, which has been exacerbated since the Taliban took control, in conjunction with the ban on girls’ education and the loss of professional opportunities are acting as major drivers of child marriage. It is reported that in the first eight months since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan alone, more than 120,000 children were exchanged for some form of financial incentive. Many girls are also being forced into early marriage and/or marriage with Taliban members as a result of the Taliban’s influence and power.
The de facto authorities are manifestly failing to comply with their obligations under the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women – the key global women’s rights treaty which Afghanistan ratified in 2003, and which the de facto authorities thus have an obligation to respect and implement.
Girls Not Brides members call on states to use all available political and legal avenues to end impunity for gender persecution in Afghanistan; place respect for girls’ and women’s rights at the front and centre of any engagements with the de facto authorities in Afghanistan; and press for increased focus on responses to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
Read the full written statement for the interactive dialogue on gender-based persecution in Afghanistan and the recommendations for states.
Girls Not Brides and members urge Human Rights Council members and observer states to take the learnings from these interactive dialogues into the negotiations of the upcoming HRC Resolution on Forced Marriage, as well as the upcoming SDG Summit.
In the time it has taken to read this article 67 girls under the age of 18 have been married
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18
That is 23 girls every minute
Nearly 1 every 2 seconds
At Girls Not Brides we want to see local and national governments, regional bodies, and global institutions direct money and resources towards ending child marriage. We advocate for child marriage laws, policies and programmes that empower girls and their communities. We want them to be well-financed, comprehensive, and multi-sectoral.
Advocacy and the SDGs
All governments have committed to end child, early and forced marriage by 2030 under the SDGs. However, with 17 different goals and numerous targets to achieve, most governments will only…