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Statement by UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman on Child Marriage

13 April 2009 - UNICEF is deeply concerned by reports that Saudi Arabian tribunals have decided not to annul the marriage of an eight-year-old girl. Irrespective of circumstances or the legal framework, the marriage of a child is a violation of that child’s rights.

The right to free and full consent to marriage is recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Consent cannot be free and full when either party to a marriage is too young to make an informed decision.

UNICEF joins many in voicing concern that child marriage contravenes accepted international standards of human rights. It can also have a long term detrimental effect on the child’s emotional, physical and psychological welfare.

About the UNICEF Executive Director:
Ann M. Veneman was appointed by the United Nations Secretary General as UNICEF's fifth Executive Director on May 1, 2005.  As the leading children's agency of the UN, UNICEF is on the ground in more than 150 developing countries helping children to survive and thrive.  The agency works to advance the Millennium Development Goals by supporting child health and nutrition, quality basic education for all, access to clean water and sanitation and the protection of children from violence, exploitation and HIV/AIDS.  Veneman directs a global agency of over 10,000 staff and annual total resources of more than $3 billion. Since becoming Executive Director, she has traveled around the world, witnessing firsthand the work of UNICEF, speaking at meetings and conferences, and visiting heads of state or government and other partners. Prior to joining UNICEF, Veneman held positions in both state and national government including United States Secretary of Agriculture. Veneman holds a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of California, Davis; a master of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley; and a juris doctor degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

For further information, please contact:
Christopher de Bono, UNICEF New York, Tel: 1 212 303 7984, Email,




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