The United Nations (UN) has launched a programme which aims to eliminate child marriage worldwide by 2030.
Run by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNICEF, the new initiative aims to increase girls’ access to education and healthcare, teach families and communities about the dangers of child marriage and push for better enforcement of laws which establish 18 as the minimum age for someone to legally marry.
UN officials label child marriage a “violation of the rights of girls and women”. They claim that those who are married off as children are more likely to suffer from domestic violence, drop out of school, die from pregnancy or childbirth related complications or contract HIV. As a result, the UN believes child marriage is an urgent problem. Officials estimate that if current trends continue as many as 280 million girls alive today will be become child brides.
Dr Babatunde Osotimehin is the Executive Director of UNFPA. He said that the choice of “when and whom to marry is one of life’s most important decisions”, one which is denied to millions of girls every year as they are married off before they reach adulthood. The UN’s new programme will help girls “reach their potential”, he claimed, adding that countries where the practice is common will eventually “attain their social and economic development goals” as a result of the action taken.
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said that people all over the world were aware of “the damage child marriage causes to individual girls, to their future children, and to their societies”. The main aim of this initiative is to “help more girls and young women realize their right to dictate their own destinies”, he said.
The ‘Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage’ has been backed by the UK, the European Union, Canada, Italy and the Netherlands.