Child Marriage | Phoebe Price

Many of you may have seen the video of a 65 year old man marrying a 12 year old girl on the streets of New York that recently went viral. ( But are you aware of the prominence of child marriage and what you can do to stop it?

 The Law: Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

  1. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
  2. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
  3. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Child marriage, therefore, violates human rights under international law, as children are not ‘of full age’ as specified in clause one, consequently they cannot give ‘full consent’ as outlined in clause two. Furthermore, many child marriages are not ‘free’ but forced upon the child by family members. Child marriage is actually prohibited in many countries where it is prevalent – the law often exists but may not be enforced or provides exceptions for parental consent or tradition and customary laws. Children should be protected from forced child marriage in all cases and be able to find secure assistance if they are at risk.

The facts

Child marriage impacts 15 million girls each year, or 41,000 girls every day in lower-income countries.

Child marriage is a harmful practice which denies young people, primarily girls, their right to choose if, when, and whom to marry. It also violates their rights to education, health, and secure living.

Once girls are wed, the marriage consumes every aspect of their life and they are denied their childhood. They are forced to adopt an adult lifestyle at an age where they should be playing with friends and learning about the world. Subsequently, they do not have the opportunity to develop independence and they become subservient to their partner.

Forced child marriage is slavery. Children can be subjected to abuse and threats, forced to undertake domestic chores and/or engage in non-consensual sexual relations.

Once married, child brides have little or no access to education and economic opportunities, and they and their families are more likely to live in poverty.

Child brides also face a higher risk of experiencing dangerous, life-threatening complications in pregnancy, contracting HIV, and suffering domestic and sexual violence.

Most children forced into marriage are trapped: they are too young to live independently if they can escape, their family have forced them into the marriage so they cannot return to live at home and attempting to escape is dangerous.

Thus, it is integral that we urge governments to:

– Enforce and ensure the application of national laws and international obligations banning forced and early marriage.

– Guarantee protection as well as shelter and support services for victims of early and forced marriages.

– Raise awareness in the population about the ban on forced and early marriage, and also about where girls can find assistance if they are at risk.

Case study

At 13 Maria’s father forced her to marry a 70-year-old man who had five other wives. When she resisted, he told her: “If you don’t go to join your husband, I will kill you.” Across Burkina Faso, thousands of girls and young women like Maria are being forced into early marriage. Some girls are doing all they can to escape forced marriages, despite huge pressure from their families and wider society. Maria walked nearly 170km over three days to seek refuge at a shelter for young girls.

Forced and early marriages are banned by Burkina Faso’s Constitution and international law, but the authorities continue to repeatedly overlook the frequent violations which occur every day. Studies have shown at least one third of girls in Burkina Faso are married before the age of 18, with far-reaching consequences for their health, safety and human rights.

Your signature can help ensure Burkina Faso’s government enforces the law and protects girls and young women from forced marriages.

Take Action!

Write a message of support to the girls and young women in Burkina Faso who have fled early marriages and the shelter workers helping them defend their human rights. Send your postcard or solidarity letter to:

Amnesty International Burkina

08 Av. Houari Boumedienne

Ouagadougou 08 BP 11344

Burkina Faso

Send an email to Burkina Faso’s Minister of Justice and Human Rights urging him to protect girls and young women from forced marriages.


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