Global action must be taken to stop girls being forced into marriage, International Development Secretary Justine Greening said today, ahead of International Women’s Day.
In a keynote speech hosted by Plan UK, Girls Not Brides and the Gender and Development Network, Justine Greening said it was time to break the silence on Early and Forced Marriage (EFM) and replicate recent work to put Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on the global agenda.
One in 3 girls in the developing world will be married by their eighteenth birthday and 1 in 9 is married by age 15, some will be as young as 8 years old. These girls often face immediate pressure to have children, are subjected to violence, drop out of education and are at greater risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. According to current trends an estimated 220 million more girls will have been married as children by 2030.
Justine Greening said:
The first step to tackling EFM and FGM is to make sure the international community is speaking with one voice. Every year 14 million girls and women are forced to marry early or against their will. When a girl cannot decide for herself when to marry and have children, it’s not just a tragedy for her, it’s a disaster for development.
It’s time to break the silence of early and forced marriage and recognise that it is exploitation as serious as any other form of child abuse.
Tanya Barron CEO of Plan UK said:
Early and forced marriage drives girls into a cycle of poverty, ill health, illiteracy and powerlessness. It’s most prevalent where poverty is rife and where education and health systems are poor.
But as well as economic empowerment, early and forced marriage is first and foremost an issue of rights and gender inequality. It is through empowering girls, boys and community leaders to protect and advocate for girls’ rights that we will see an end to this practice.
Lakshmi Sundaram Global Coordinator of Girls Not Brides said:
Child brides are among the world’s most voiceless and isolated people. We’re pleased to see that DFID is helping to bring attention to child marriage, a problem once overlooked on the international stage.
We know what it will take to end child marriage, but change won’t happen overnight. Successful efforts must be grounded in the realities of the places where child marriage is common. That is why we need to support the community-based organisations at the forefront of this issue, working with parents and communities to create a better future for their daughters. It is only by working in partnership over the long term that we will be able to reach all those girls who are being held back by child marriage.