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Every year an estimate of 10 million girls are married before they reach 18. In the most appalling of these cases, little girls as young as eight years old are being married off to men who may be three or four times their age.

Girls who are forced to marry face a life of violence in the home where they are physically and sexually abused, suffer from inhuman and degrading treatment and ultimately slavery.

Today, on the first United Nations International Day on the Girl Child, we call on States to increase the age of marriage to 18 years of age for girls and boys without exception and adopt urgent measures to prevent child marriage. As with all forms of slavery, forced early marriages should be criminalized. They cannot be justified on traditional, religious, cultural or economic grounds.

However, an approach which only focuses on criminalization cannot succeed in effectively combating forced early marriages. This should go hand in hand with public awareness raising campaigns to highlight the nature and harm caused by forced and early marriages and community programmes to help detect, provide advice, rehabilitation and shelter where necessary. In addition, birth registration should be made universal to support proof of age and prevent forced early marriage.

No girl should be forced to marry. No girl should be committed to servile marriage, domestic servitude and sexual slavery. No girl should suffer from violations to their right to health, education, non-discrimination and freedom from physical, psychological and sexual violence. Not a single one.

The thematic report "Protecting Children from Harmful Practices in Plural Legal Systems" will be launched by the SRSG on Violence against Children and Plan International, on Thursday, 11th of October from 8.30 to 9.45 am, in Conference Room 7, North Lawn Building in United Nations, New York.

The launch of the  report is organized in the framework of the International Day of the Girl Child, commemorated on 11th of October.

Media Statement

Download the report