When a young girl starts out in life, where will her journey take her? What if instead of being treated as someone’s property to be betrothed, raped, abused, sold, with no power over her destiny, a girl is healthy, safe, educated, and empowered? What if instead she has the ability to freely make informed decisions regarding whom, when and if she marries, and when and if she wants to have children? What if instead she is respected and valued by her community and is educated, able to pursue a non-exploitative career, able to invest in the economy and participate politically in a non-discriminatory atmosphere, able to live her life to the fullest based on her own choices and abilities?
The text above is an excerpt from Equality Now’s ‘Protecting the Girl Child: Using the Law to End Child, Early & Forced Marriage & Related Human Rights Violations’ report to which this research contributed.
This Legal Annex considers the legislation concerning child marriage in 18 countries. The country reports look at not only the pure legal provisions relating to age of marriage, but also the extent to which they have been enforced, if at all, and the law and practice of some related issues. These include laws relating to bride price/dowry; statutory rape laws that are circumvented through marriage; availability of child protection services when escaping child marriage; legal requirements for registration of birth and/or marriage; and, schooling for girls. They also identify the intersection between child marriage and other social and legal issues, such as gender-based violence, human trafficking, exploitation, nationality, FGM, and force feeding.
The picture presented by this legal research is not encouraging. It indicates that, once married, a girl is often trapped in a system where she is at risk of further violence and discrimination. In 2014 Equality Now used this legal research to advocate for change. Please add your voice to the call by signing the global petition.
Equality Now was cited in Thomson Reuters Foundation coverage of their report saying that countries must recognise child marriage as child abuse and introduce robust laws setting a minimum age of 18 for both boys and girls.