Yesterday, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution calling for the elimination of early and forced marriage. Importantly, countries with high rates of child marriage, including Chad, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, and Yemen, cosponsored the resolution.
The unanimously adopted resolution is the first time the Human Rights Council has passed a resolution on the issue of child marriage. Before this, governments and civil society groups have relied upon other UN agreements that refer to the eradication of child marriage, but within the scope of other issues, such as discrimination and children’s rights.
Every day, 39,000 girls under the age of 18 are married, often against their will and to much older men. Marrying young denies girls of their education, livelihood and ability to determine their own futures. The resolution recognizes:
[C]hild, early and forced marriage continues to be an impediment to not only the economic, legal, health and social status of women and girls but to the development of the community as a whole, and that the empowerment of and investment in women and girls, as well as their meaningful participation in decisions that affect them, is a key factor in breaking the cycle of gender inequality and discrimination, violence and poverty and is critical for sustainable development and economic growth.
The resolution calls for a report “on preventing and eliminating child, early and forced marriage, with a particular focus on challenges, achievements, best practices and implementation gaps,” to be written in consultation with member states, civil society, and UN bodies, in advance of the 26th meeting of the Human Rights Council. The resolution calls for a panel discussion on the issue at that meeting, and also states the “the elimination of child, early and force marriage should be considered in the discussion of the post-2015 development agenda.”