Child marriage impedes girls’ empowerment and fulfillment of their fundamental rights
Lahore, October 11 2012 – Intensive efforts to prevent the practice of child marriage are vital to ensure that the fundamental rights of adolescent girls are fulfilled. At a ceremony held here today to mark the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child, the United Nations Adolescent Girls Task Force Pakistan (UNAGTF) issued a UN joint statement urging all stakeholders to accelerate efforts to eradicate early marriage in Pakistan.
In 2011, the United Nations General Assembly agreed to designate October 11, every year, as the International Day of the Girl Child. The day is being observed globally for the first time this year to create awareness of the situation of the girl child and ensure greater efforts are made to improve their lives. The theme this year is ‘my life, my right, end child marriage’.
The launch of this joint statement reflects the United Nations commitment to prevent child marriage, which directly affects Pakistan’s ability to achieve six of the eight millennium development goals.
Speaking on the occasion, the UNICEF Representative in Pakistan, Dan Rohrmann, emphasised that early marriage violates the right to health, education, recreation, protection and other social and economic rights of girls and young women.
“Empowering young women, especially the most marginalised and disadvantaged contributes to achieving child rights,” said Mr. Rohrmann. “It is a powerful resource for development as investing in children is an investment in the future of Pakistan, an investment that forever will change the lives of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.”
The UNFPA Representative, Rabbi Royan, highlighted that all programmes and policies related to girls’ empowerment should prioritise five areas. These include promoting educational opportunities for girls; improving girls’ health; protecting them from violence and harmful traditional practices; promoting adolescent girls’ participation and leadership, and collecting reliable data relating to girls in order to develop and monitor evidence based policies and programmes to end child marriage.
Mr Royan said, “There is huge cost to inaction on child marriage. It is time for policy makers, parliamentarians, communities, families and young people to address this issue head on. Let’s deliver a world where pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. ‘Let girls be girls’.”
According to the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (2006-7), almost one-third of young women in the country are married before the age of 18 years. One out of ten girls between the ages of 15 to 19 years is already a mother or is pregnant.
UN agencies call all stakeholders, governments, civil society and media, to work together to end child marriage, empower girls and safeguard their rights.