New Report: Child Marriage Linked to Array of Abusive Practices that Violate Girls’ Human Rights
Thursday, March 6, 2014 4:20 PM

A comprehensive report released by Equality Now documents the link between child marriage and a sequence of abusive practices that directly affect 14 million girls each year. Research conducted for the report indicates that girls in countries allowing child marriage are at risk for female genital mutilation, rape, sex trafficking and force-feeding before marriage. And, as stated by Jacqui Hunt, the London director of Equality Now, “[W]hen a child bride gives birth, the vicious cycle of poverty, poor health, curtailed education, violence, instability, disregard for rule of law and legal and other discrimination often continues into the next generation, especially for any daughters she may have.”
The report, Protecting the Girl Child: Using the law to end child, early and forced marriage and related human rights violations, examines the legal status of child marriage and related issues in 18 countries. The country profiles in the report consider not only the existence and enforcement of legal provisions relating to child marriage, but also the laws and customs regarding connected issues, such as bride price/dowry; provisions allowing rapists to evade prosecution by marrying their underage victims; whether child protection services extend to girls escaping from forced marriage; and girls’ access to education.
Case studies throughout the report illustrate the specific issues associated with child marriage in various countries. A case study from Mauritania, for example, focuses on the practice of force-feeding girls in preparation for early marriage. Forced fattening is closely linked to early childhood marriage because it accelerates puberty and makes younger girls appear more mature.
The report concludes that, in order to end child marriage and related abusive practices, governments must take a comprehensive approach centered on legal reforms but also addressing the need to improve girls’ access to education and to raise awareness of the adverse impacts on public health and development caused by allowing child marriage to continue.