On world’s first International Day of the girl child, UN calls for end to child marriage

Thursday, October 11, 2012
Soon-to-be-wed Faiz Mohammed, 40, and Gulam Haider, 11, at her home in a
 rural village in Afghanistan. Image© Stephanie Sinclair/Tooyoungtowed.org

Washington: The United Nations on Thursday marked the first International Day of the Girl Child by calling for an end to child marriage, and stressing education as one of the best strategies for protecting girls against this harmful practice.

“Education for girls is one of the best strategies for protecting girls against child marriag,” Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day.

 “When they are able to stay in school and avoid being married early, girls can build a foundation for a better life for themselves and their families,” he added.

“Let us do our part to let girls be girls, not brides,” he stated, urging governments, community and religious leaders, civil society, the private sector, and families – especially men and boys – to promote the rights of girls.

The International Day of the Girl Child was designated as 11 October by a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2011, to recognize girls’ rights and highlight the unique challenges girls face worldwide. The theme of this year’s observance is ‘Ending Child Marriage.’

Approximately 70 million young women today were married before age 18, according to the UN, which notes that child marriage denies a girl her childhood, disrupts her education, limits her opportunities, increases her risk of being a victim of violence and abuse, and jeopardizes her health.

Girls with low levels of schooling are more likely to be married early, and child marriage has been shown to almost always end a girl’s education, the world body adds. Conversely, girls with secondary schooling are up to six times less likely to marry as children, making education one of the most effective ways of combating child marriage.

If current trends continue, the number of girl child marriages will increase dramatically over the next 10 years, according to Marrying too Young: End Child Marriage, a new report released today by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). It also finds that, despite laws to prevent its practice, child marriage has remained mostly constant in developing countries in the past decade.

The report calls on governments and leaders to end child marriage by: enacting and enforcing national laws that raise the age of marriage to 18, for both girls and boys; using data to identify and target geographic “hotspots,” which have high numbers of girls at risk of child marriage; expanding prevention programmes that empower girls at risk of child marriage and address the root causes underlying the practice; and mitigating the harmful impact of child marriage on girls.

Also to mark the Day, the UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and its partners have launched the Tech Needs Girls Prize to inspire more girls to embrace technology and spark creativity.
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