CHILD marriage is the “forgotten issue” at the London Family Planning Summit – according to children’s charity Plan UK.
Global leaders are meeting in the capital to face calls for 120 million girls and women to be given better access to contraception.
Ten million girls are forced or coerced into marriage each year – facing an increased risk of early pregnancy and serious health complications like HIV.
“The vast majority of child brides are pressured into having children while they are still children themselves – but their voices risk not being heard at this major family planning summit because the issue is not on the agenda,” says Marie Staunton, Chief Executive of Plan UK.
“As well as increasing access to contraception, leaders must tackle the issues that can prevent girls from choosing if, and when, to have a family.”
“Child marriage is one of those barriers - we have to address why girls as young as eight are ending up in marital beds and what can be done to help them.”
In countries with the highest rates of child marriage, unmarried girls are more than six times as likely to use contraception as their married counterparts.
Girls aged 15-19 are twice as likely to die in childbirth as women aged over 20, while girls aged 10-14 face five times the risk.
“Many young brides have their choices taken away as they face serious social pressure to have children while they are still children themselves,” explains Marie Staunton.
“Ingrained gender roles – as well as a lack of education – often mean they have limited awareness of their rights and lack the knowledge and power to negotiate safer sex.”
Poverty, lack of schooling, gender discrimination and the devastating impact of disasters like floods and earthquakes can all contribute to a girl being married off.
Young brides need targeted support to access contraception as they are triply disadvantaged by their age, sex and marital status.
“We want to give girls choices, raise awareness of the consequences of child marriage and stop this serious violation of human rights,” says Marie Staunton.
“As well as improving access to contraception, we want to see global leaders pledge to ramp up their efforts to end child marriage, promote girls education and delay early pregnancy.”
As part of their ‘Because I am a Girl’ campaign, Plan is running the ‘Take the Vow’ petition calling on the UK government to take urgent action to end early and forced marriage.
The charity is asking the UK government and the international community to help bring an end to early and forced marriage and support girls to complete their education.
Find out more on giving girls choices at www.choicesforgirls.org
Media Relations Officer
Plan UK | www.plan-uk.org
Direct Line: 0203 217 0257 | Switchboard: 0300 777 9777 / +44 (0)20 7608 1311 (Non-UK) | Mobile: 07964 296 431 | Skype: rose_planUK | Address: Finsgate 5-7 Cranwood Street, London EC1V 9LH
Notes to editors
1) Plan is a global children’s charity. We work with children in the world’s poorest countries to help them build a better future. A future you would want for all children, your family and friends. For over 70 years we’ve been taking action and standing up for every child’s right to fulfill their potential by:
· giving children a healthy start in life, including access to safe drinking water
· securing the education of girls and boys
· working with communities to prepare for and survive disasters
· inspiring children to take a lead in decisions that affect their lives
· enabling families to earn a living and plan for their children’s future.
We do what’s needed, where it’s needed most. We do what you would do. With your support children, families and entire communities have the power to move themselves from a life of poverty to a future with opportunity.
2) Plan UK is a member of The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an umbrella organisation for 14 leading humanitarian aid agencies.
3) We work with children in 50 of the world’s poorest countries to help them build a better future.
4) Plan was founded by British journalist John Langdon-Davies in 1937 to rescue orphans and other vulnerable children from the Spanish Civil War.
6) We have over 100,000 sponsors in the UK, generating £24 million a year, and 1 million sponsored children worldwide
7) Sponsorship starts at £15-a-month and, rather than going to individual children and their families, funds projects to improve schooling, health, nutrition and livelihoods across communities