Tuesday, August 16News For London

Child rights activists to urge UK parliamentarians to end child marriage

End Child Marriage
Young girls in workshop on child marriage. Department for International Development (DFID). Photographer: Russell Watkins Open license creative commons

Girls Not Brides, a coalition of more than 400+ civil society organisations, will launch a new publication and resource pack on Child Marriage on Wednesday at the Houses of Parliament (16 December).

The Parliamentary launch “The Role of Parliamentarians in Ending Child Marriage”  is being co-hosted by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and Girls Not Brides (GNB) in attendance by women parliamentarians from the Middle East and South East Asia.

The GNB’s publication is designed to be used as a “Parliamentary Toolkit”, to encourage parliamentarians to use their political will and intensify efforts for the campaign #endchildmarriage.

The need for greater action is highlighted by the facts:

  • that every year some 15 million girls around the world are married as children;
  • over 720 million women alive today were married or entered into union before their 18th birthday;
  • If there is no reduction in the near future, 1.2 billion girls will have been married as children by 2050;

The purpose of the event is to advocate for a broader set of laws and policies to protect girls at risk of child marriage and also support married girls.

To date, the legal framework to #endchildmarriage has focused more on ensuring that the minimum age of marriage is 18 years old.

Lubna Maktari, Child Rights Activist, Member of Girls Not Brides network


GNB said: “There is no single solution to child marriage but a strong, coherent, and comprehensive legal and policy framework is part of the answer.”

“Parliamentarians are in a privileged position to push for the adoption and implementation of such laws and policies. Yet they are often overlooked as drivers of change.”

The toolkit aims to provide parliamentarians with:

  • An overview of what child marriage is, including its prevalence, causes and impact;
  • Existing legal instruments that prohibit the practice;
  • Concrete examples and recommendations on how to take action, not only in Parliament but also in their constituencies and internationally
The UK continues to take a leading role to #EndChildMarriage both home and abroad.

In July 2014, the British government organised its first Girl Summit to mobilise domestic and international efforts to end child and early forced marriages.

With key contribution from Prime Minister David Cameron and former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the 2014 Summit prompted commitments from a number of governments that also included the “brutal” practise of female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C).


Child marriage in the UK

Although child marriage is most common in the developing world it also happens in the United Kingdom. 

The issue of child marriage currently falls across the Department for International Development (DFID), where a joint initiative of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Home Office, set up The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) back in January 2005.

The Home Office estimates that between 5,000 and 8,000 people are at risk of being forced into marriage every year in the UK.

Karen Bradley, Minister for Preventing Abuse and Exploitation said:

Forced marriage is a brutal practice and the UK is a world-leader in the fight to stop it.

We made forced marriage a criminal offence to protect victims and be absolutely clear that these acts will not be tolerated. Our Forced Marriage Unit does brilliant work, helping those at risk and leading the efforts to combat forced marriage both at home and abroad.

But we know that legislation alone is not enough. We also need to work in other ways to prevent these dreadful cases from occurring and offer support to those who fear they may be forced into a life they do not want.

The FMU also arranges repatriation and resettlement of those who have been forced, or are at risk of being forced, into marriage abroad.

Last year the Forced Marriage Unit gave advice and support in 1,267 cases of possible forced marriages in over 88 different countries.