Author Archives: 2Y2W

12 Monday, June 2017

New Jersey Governor Kills Statewide Child Marriage Ban

Protesters dress in wedding garb and costume chains in a gathering organized by Unchained at Last at the New Jersey State House in Trenton on June 1, 2017. The aim was to highlight a veto by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie of a bill that would have banned marriage for those under the age of 18.


Last month in the U.S., New Jersey Governor Chris Christie conditionally vetoed bill A3091 which banned marriages for anyone under the age of 18 in the state with no exceptions. This hard-line bill would have been the first of its kind in the country.

Despite the bill’s bipartisan support, Christie opted to squander the remarkable opportunity to close child marriage legal loopholes by falling back on the ridiculous claim that to do so would impinge the religious freedom of New Jersey residents, according to an article in Politico. Christie appears to have been swayed by religious special-interest groups who raised concerns that more children would be born out of wedlock if marriage between 16 and 17-year-olds were banned.

Rightfully, the governor’s decision was met with extensive criticism from organizations like Too Young to Wed and the media, most notably from a column by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times.

Some took it one step further. Our friends at the nonprofit Unchained at Last, which works to provide assistance to survivors of child marriage in the United States, organized a Chain-In, where protesters donned wedding dresses and bound their wrists with costume chains. They gathered in front of the New Jersey State House in Trenton on June 1 with speakers including Unchained At Last’s Executive Director, Fraidy Reiss, as well as advocates from Human Rights Watch and the National Organization for Women.

Unchained At Last has reported that forced marriage overwhelmingly takes place in closed religious groups where there are few resources (if any) for underage spouses to access. The cases also overwhelmingly involve a minor girl and a much older man.

“I have gotten too many phone calls from girls under 18 who are either facing pressure to get married or are trying to leave a marriage,” said Christina, the Director of Client Services at Unchained at Last and who wished to be identified only by her first name.

For girls wishing to leave a forced marriage, there are extremely limited resources in New Jersey and elsewhere in the U.S. Domestic violence shelters are often unable to take girls under 18, and minors who leave home are seen as runaways and are swiftly returned to the very situations they are trying to escape. Legal advice, healthcare and education can also become difficult to access, just as the Too Young to Wed team has repeatedly witnessed in our projects around the globe.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this whole story is that it highlights the fact that there is no true child marriage ban in the United States. The U.S. Department of State has declared marriage under the age of 18 is a human rights abuse, but, shockingly, state laws across the country do not reflect this. Other bills seeking to ban forced and underage marriage have failed to pass in states like New Hampshire and New York*.

Gov. Christie leaves office in January 2018, but human rights abuses to which he turned a blind eye will continue until we move forward with meaningful change in place of legal loopholes and special interest kowtowing. 

*Last week, a bill passed in the New York State Assembly and will now go to the Governor’s desk. Previous attempts were introduced but not put to a vote.

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2 Tuesday, May 2017

TYTW stands with over 100 NGOs in support of empowerment initiatives for women and girls

Greetings Friends and TYTW Supporters,

We at Too Young to Wed were saddened and dismayed to hear of the memo that was released by the current United States government that would remove funding for “Let Girls Learn,” an initiative targeting women’s empowerment and education around the world. The “Let Girls Learn” program was started in 2015 by former first lady Michelle Obama to provide vital opportunities to girls in developing nations.

As our own projects have taken us around the developing world, we are well aware of the many barriers that girls face in getting an education. It was clear that the “Let Girls Learn” initiative was both needed and highly effective. Helping empower the world’s women and girls with education helps close the gender gap on all fronts, which directly leads to an increase in economic opportunity and stability, personal and community health, national and global security, and many other issues of vital important to our interests here in America and beyond, no matter which party holds the reins.

Today, the White House quickly walked back its statement on the future of “Let Girls Learn,” but it remains unclear as to the initiative’s fate moving forward. Therefore, we were proud to co-sign a statement by the International Center for Research on Women and co-signed by 117 other organizations working to advance the empowerment of women and girls around the world. The final statement was delivered to OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Acting USAID Administrator Wade Warren, and Special Assistant to the President Ivanka Trump.

You can see the complete statement and a total list of the 118 co-signing organizations over at the ICRW.

Thank you all for your continued support.

Best wishes,

Stephanie Sinclair & the Too Young to Wed Team

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20 Tuesday, September 2016

Stand with Child Marriage Survivors Today!

“Today, I learned a girl can do anything." –Workshop participant, Eunice, 14.
“Today, I learned a girl can do anything.”
–Workshop participant, Eunice, 14.

 

Greetings Friends and TYTW Supporters!

Too Young To Wed (TYTW) is excited to announce we have partnered with Global Giving to launch our Adolescent Girls Photography Workshop funding campaign!

Born out of TYTW’s strong community ties, our immersive five-day workshops bring former child brides and at-risk girls together to help them process their trauma, gain confidence, and communicate their stories using the power of photography.

You can help make real change in these girls’ lives. For example:

  • Only $10 provides an attendee with a personal hygiene kit. $10 more pays for a trauma training workbook.
  • $25 covers an attendee’s personal expenses during the workshop.
  • $100 pays for an attendee’s travel costs to and from the workshop.
  • And $250 covers the cost the workshop for one girl, including materials and meals.

To learn more about our Adolescent Girls Photography Workshops, visit our Global Giving campaign HERE.

"I was married when I was very young," says Maria, 14, pictured here. "I used to sell milk to get food and sleep in the forest because I [didn’t] have a place to sleep. Society should stop bad practices, because what I have been through was so hard for me. After my education, I would like to be a nurse so that I can help other girls like me." Photograph by Workshop participant Modestar, 12
“I was married when I was very young,” says Workshop participant Maria, 14, pictured here. “I used to sell milk to get food and sleep in the forest because I [didn’t] have a place to sleep. Society should stop bad practices, because what I have been through was so hard for me. After my education, I would like to be a nurse so that I can help other girls like me.”
Photograph by Workshop participant Modestar, 12
 

Stand with Child Marriage Survivors: Support TYTW’s Adolescent Girls Photography Workshop. Together, we can create a generation of empowered advocates and community leaders in the fight to protect girls’ rights and end child marriage.

Thank you,
Stephanie Sinclair & the Too Young To Wed Team

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15 Thursday, May 2014

Schools — and the girls who attend them — are not weapons of war

By Gordon Brown, former UK prime minister and UN special envoy for global education

It is now urgent that leaders of all faiths speak with one voice against the perversion and distortion of Islam by Boko Haram terrorists. Their recently issued video, which talks of the forced conversions of the 280 abducted Nigerian school children, follows their warning last weekend that their religion justified them selling girls into sex slavery for as little as seven dollars per girl.

Women gather on May 8, 2014, in western Niger to ask the UN to pursue Boko Haram Islamists who are responsible for the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls. Nigeria’s president said the mass abduction of the schoolgirls in Nigeria marks a turning point in the battle against the Islamists, as world powers join the search to rescue the hostages. Boko Haram chief Abubakar Shekau has claimed responsibility in a video, saying his extreme Islamist group is holding the schoolgirls as ‘slaves’ and threatening to ‘sell them in the market.’ BOUREIMA HAMA/AFP/Getty Images

Their violent assaults in the name of religion against innocent school girls have to be condemned throughout the world as we alert the Nigerian people to the true evil of a sect that claims to have its own special insight into Sharia law.

More than three weeks ago, I called for international action with logistic help for surveillance and satellite reconnaissance to locate and rescue the girls. Now, members of the Global Faiths Coalition for Education, including those representing the Islamic faith, are calling for condemnation of Boko Haram’s distorted theological claims that seek to justify slavery and rape.

Their proposed trade in girls — that they be exchanged for Boko Haram prisoners captured by the Nigerian authorities — shows that they have no interest in the welfare of the girls other than as pawns in their military game.

That is why faith leaders across Nigeria — some of whom I am in contact with already — and across the world must come together under the Global Faiths Coalition for Education in condemning any attempt to use schools as weapons of war and to justify atrocities on a fabricated interpretation of the Koran.

The new video gives us some hope that the girls may not have yet been dispersed across Africa and can be found. It challenges rumors that 50 girls had been seen as far away as the Central African Republic and lessens fears that they are now scattered throughout Chad, Cameroon and Niger. The video, however, increases pressure on the Nigerian government to mobilize its international help which now includes China, France and Israel as well as Britain and the USA.

Having met Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Friday [May 9] in Abuja, I can confirm his determination now that he has international technical support to move quickly to locate the girls and attempt to rescue them.

Students hold signs outside the state government house in Lagos, Nigeria, where groups called for the release of nearly 300 Chibok boarding-school girls, kidnapped by Islamist extremists a  month ago. B PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images

I have now seen interviews with the very brave Chibok girls who took their chances to escape after the devastating burning and looting of their school and village. It is, however, clear that as the girls were being taken from their dormitories and marched off in lorries late at night, many were so in fear of being shot that they missed their opportunity to run away

The Boko Haram pattern of behavior makes it all the more important that the safe schools initiative launched by Nigerian business leaders last week gets off the ground quickly. While Boko Haram are a small extremist faction with limited demographic reach, it will take a tougher approach to school security and safety to reassure girls’ parents and teachers that their school in the northern states is safe enough to attend. That is why foreign governments are now offering financial support for security guards and for proper fortifications and security equipment to give any school threatened by a terrorist attack the best possible chance of surviving it intact.

We can do more to create safe schools. In 2011, the United Nations designated attacks on schools as war crimes, and on March 7, 2014, only two months ago, the security council of the U.K. required UN authorities to increase the monitoring of the military use of schools and asked all states to take measures to deter any militarization of school precincts.

In the next few days under the banner “See it, Name it, Stop it: End and Prevent Attacks on Schools,” Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, will call a vigil and launch her guidance note to enable better protection of pupils in conflict zones. It has taken four weeks for the world to come together to provide military, security, and financial and moral support for the Chibok girls. Not a moment must be lost in locating the Chibok girls and making schools for all girls safer.

Follow Gordon Brown on Twitter: www.twitter.com/officegsbrown

This piece first appeared on The Huffington Post on May 12, 2014, and was reprinted with permission from The Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown, which supports A World At School.

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8 Thursday, May 2014

Yemen to Ban Child Marriage and FGM

By Suad Abu-Dayyeh, Equality Now

As dusk falls over the Fun City amusement park, a mother watches her children spin on a ride featuring an unveiled version of Fulla, a Barbie doll alternative popular among Middle Eastern girls in Sana, Yemen, Nov. 13, 2012. Moments like this offer relief from troubles, but the “emergence of a new dawn” heralded by Yemen’s 2011 peace Nobelist, Tawakkol Karman, eludes much of the country. Stephanie Sinclair/ VII
As dusk falls over the Fun City amusement park, a mother watches her children spin on a ride featuring an unveiled version of Fulla, a Barbie doll alternative popular among Middle Eastern girls in Sana, Yemen, Nov. 13, 2012. Moments like this offer relief from troubles, but the “emergence of a new dawn” heralded by Yemen’s 2011 peace Nobelist, Tawakkol Karman, eludes much of the country. Stephanie Sinclair/VII

Yemen is likely to vote on a comprehensive ‘Child Rights Act’ over the coming months, which would ban both child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM). 

 After years of pressure from both national and international organizations, including Equality Now, on April 27th, Mohammad Makhlafi, minister for legal affairs, submitted the proposed wide-ranging legislation to Mohammad Basindawa, Yemeni prime minister.  If approved by Basindawa, the next step would be a review by the cabinet’s council of ministers.  Upon agreement by the cabinet, it would go to a parliamentary discussion and vote.
 
The new law proposes to establish the international human rights standard of 18 as the minimum age of marriage and impose fines on guardians, signatories, marriage officials and any other witnesses who have knowledge that either marriage participant is under this age. 
 
Now that the ‘National Dialogue’ has been completed – a lengthy process that aimed to make recommendations for a new Yemeni constitution – it is heartening to see that its outcomes, including setting a minimum age of marriage, are being translated into official legislation.  This new push has been endorsed by Hooria Mashhour, minister for human rights, while others in government have also taken a strong leadership role.  
However, successful passage of the law is far from certain, and a previous 2009 attempt to fix the minimum age of marriage for girls at 17 was blocked by traditional and religious leaders and the parliament’s Shariah committee.  On this occasion, the president has increased power and can overrule.  It is unclear whether or not he would do so, but the process has shown more general support for protecting girls from early marriage.
 
According to the United Nations, over half of Yemeni girls are married by the age of 18.  This serious human rights violation is extremely harmful to a girl’s physical, psychological and emotional health and well-being, but also means that her education and future prospects are severely compromised. Complications during sexual intercourse and childbirth put the girl at particularly high risk of harm and even maternal mortality.
 
Furthermore, child marriage does not take place in a vacuum, as detailed in Equality Now’s new report on ‘Protecting the Girl Child: Using the Law to End Child, Early and Forced Marriage and Related Human Rights Violations’.  This comprehensive report illustrates how such marriages are part a continuum of abuse and discrimination experienced by a young girl – often linked with related abuses such as sexual violence and FGM.  When a child bride gives birth, the violence and discrimination continue for future generations until the cycle of abuse is broken. 
 
With this in mind, we welcome additional articles in the ‘Child Rights Act’ that propose banning FGM, which affects 23 percent of Yemen’s female population – as well as other forms of violence against children such as child labor. 
 
In dealing with the rights of the girl child in a holistic way, Yemen is recognizing that an interlinked approach is essential to ensuring that girls at risk are protected at an early stage from a lifetime of abuse.  However, such a holistic approach would mean that the health, education and justice systems need to be adequately resourced not only financially, but also in terms of each actor knowing what role and responsibility they have in ensuring that the law is effectively implemented and that girls are properly educated about their rights. 
 
In recent months, neighboring countries have made moves in both directions.  In the Sindh province of Pakistan – the part of the country with the highest prevalence – the local assembly voted in favor of a law establishing 18 as the minimum age of marriage.  Regulations in Saudi Arabia were allegedly drafted last year, but we have yet to hear confirmation of when these might be realized. 
 
Unfortunately, proposed legislative changes in the region have not all been positive.  A potential Iraqi draft law, which would permit 9-year-old girls to marry, has at least been shelved for the moment.  However, moves like this are indicative of the possibility of the rights of women and girls to also slide backwards, at a time when huge strides are being made in the right direction.
 
It is hoped that in Yemen, the various authorities will seize the new opportunity for major advances to be made – not only for its female population, but for the entire country.  As long as Yemeni women and girls are at risk of violence and discrimination, lives are destroyed and potential is wasted.  We hope that on this occasion, traditional and religious leaders will ensure that the law is passed by the Shariah committee and help to make a resounding step forward toward a new future for Yemen, where the rights of girls are firmly at the forefront.
Suad Abu-Dayyeh joined Equality Now as a consultant for the Middle East and North Africa in 2008. Before joining the organization, Ms. Abu-Dayyeh worked for ten years with the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling in Jerusalem (WCLAC). WCLAC is a Palestinian feminist NGO which works to address gender-based violence within the Palestinian Society in both the private and public spheres. Ms. Abu-Dayyeh holds a master’s in “Women & Development” from the Institute of Social Studies in the Netherlands and bachelor’s degrees in Social Work and Law from Bethlehem University and Al Ahliyya Amman University in Jordan. Currently, she is pursuing a master’s in Public Law at Middle East University Jordan.
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