United to end child marriage

Amnesty International is a world wide organisation which campaigns against human rights abuses, and has off shoot in universities across the country. KCL Amnesty Society runs weekly meetings, organising campaigns, as well as fundraising and awareness raising. Our new column aims to highlight one of the many human rights issues Amnesty is concerned with, as well as spreading the word about the work the society does in university. Everyone is welcome to attend our meeting on Mondays at 6pm in the Strand building. For more details, please see our Facebook group http://www.facebook.com/groups/kclamnesty/.

The following article is written by one of our society members, Aga Maciejewska.

“One… Two… Three…”  a little girl counts the seconds.  Then Desmond Tutu, one of King’s most famous alumni, appears on the screen. “Every three seconds, another girl becomes a child bride”.  

The video is a part of Girls Not Brides campaign, a project launched in 2011 -191 organisations from over 38 countries have come together with a common aim- ending of child marriage. 11th of October marked the first International Day of The Girl Child and politicians, scholars and activists from all over the world gathered at the UN headquarters in New York to address this issue.

And it goes without saying that it has to be addressed.  According to the United Nations Population Fund 37.000 girls under age of 18 are married off every day. Some are as young as 6. In countries like Niger (where nearly 75% of girls are married before they turn 18 and 36%- before 15), Chad (72% and 35%) and Bangladesh (66% and 32%) girls have no choice- they are considered “less valuable” than boys and the marriage, rooted in their communities tradition, is often thought as the only way they can benefit their families. Giving a girl in marriage reduces family expanses and the dowry usually constitutes the important part of family’s income. In communities where the bride’s family pays the dowry they often have to pay less when the girl is young.

The consequences of this practice are multileveled. Not only does it deprive girls of normal childhood. Young girls are at far greater risk of experiencing complications during childbirth and becoming infected by STDs; they are also often subjected to experience both domestic and sexual abuse. The early marriage usually ends the girl’s education, without which they and their families are more likely to remain poor.  According to Girls Not Brides website, child marriage hinders the achievement of 6 out of 8 Millennium Development Goals (MGDs, goals established by the UN in 2000,which the Member States agreed to achieve by the end of 2015).

During the High Level Panel discussion in New York, Archbishop Desmond Tutu addressed the international community, saying that ending the child marriage is his dream and that he is as committed to abolishing it as he was to abolishing apartheid. The panelists agreed that the lack of investments in girls and  international community’s inability to recognize the significance of this issue are still major challenges. But they all remain certain, that their goal is achievable and that it is  important. As the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said: “All members of society will benefit when we let girls be girls, not brides”

More information: girlsnotbrides.org

Data used: 2012  UNICEF State of the World’s Children report

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