UN Takes Major Action to End Child Marriage


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For the first time in history, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution dedicated to ending the blight of child marriage. Over 100 countries co-sponsored the resolution that was adopted on September 27, and remaining member states had until Friday, October 11, to sign on.

The historic proposal recognizes child marriage as a human rights violation and specifically calls for the elimination of child, early and forced marriage to be considered part of the development agenda after 2015. The Center along with key other NGOs including the Sexual Rights Initiative, Girls Not Brides, Plan and WYWCA advocated with states to ensure its successful passage.

The resolution is a crucial milestone in global efforts to eliminate child marriage. It recognizes child, early and forced marriage as involving violations of human rights which “prevents individuals form living their lives free from all forms of violence and that has adverse consequences on the enjoyment of human rights, such as the right to education, the right to the highest attainable standard of health including sexual and reproductive health.” Further, it recognizes that “the elimination of child, early and force marriage should be considered in the discussion of the post-2015 development agenda.”

As a result of the resolution, the Human Rights Council will host a panel discussion on child, early and forced marriage at its 26th session next year and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will prepare a report in consultation with states, other UN bodies and civil society.

The UN predicts that child marriage will lead to more than 140 million girls becoming child brides in the decade leading up to 2020 if allowed to continue. This equates to 14 million child brides every year or nearly 39,000 girls married every day.

Several countries with high rates of child marriage adopted the resolution including Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Honduras, and Yemen. However, many South Asian countries with significantly high rates of child marriage failed to co-sponsor the proposal – specifically India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan or Pakistan. Nepal, the only country with a high incidence of child marriage in the region, did come forward last week and co-sponsored the report. South Asia accounts for almost half of child marriages that occur globally—the most of any region of the world. 

The Center for Reproductive Rights is calling on these South Asian governments to recognize the urgency of this issue and sign on to the resolution.

The Human Rights Council is the principal body at the UN that promotes and protects human rights for all.

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