Tag Archives: Ban Ki-moon

8 Tuesday, October 2013

UN resolution acknowledges child marriage as human rights violation

By Omar J. Robles, 2y2w Contributor

The United Nations has laid out several frameworks, conventions and resolutions that establish international law and human rights. Some are general, outlining principles that cover all people while leaving for interpretation the details. Some are specific, linking human rights principles to a particular population or issue.

Getting international bodies to do the latter is very often a key goal for advocacy groups and individuals who seek equality and justice. International consensus can fuel national efforts to ensure that all people are able to realize their human rights. Put another way, getting countries to sign UN conventions and resolutions promotes accountability, even if it doesn’t guarantee it.

For the first time ever, we can now add child marriage to the list: more than 100 countries have explicitly stated that child marriage is a human rights violation that must be stopped.

--- Stephanie Sinclair/VII
— Stephanie Sinclair/VII

Last month, the UN Human Rights Council — the leading UN body responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights around the world — adopted the first-ever UN resolution on child, early and forced marriage. The move came just two weeks before the second annual International Day of the Girl Child, celebrated this Friday, Oct. 11. A diverse group of 107 countries affirmed that the choice to marry is an adult decision that should be informed and made freely without fear, coercion or undue pressure.

Among those countries that signed the resolution are several that have a relatively high prevalence of child marriage: Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Chad, Guatemala, Honduras and Yemen.

Previously, UN Agencies, advocacy groups and girls themselves had relied on — and still will — other human rights instruments that reference child marriage, within the context of broader frameworks.

For example, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979) both outlawed child marriage. Additionally, at the International Conference on Population and Development (1994), 197 countries adopted the ICPD Programme of Action, which called on countries to eliminate child marriage and to enforce laws that ensure free and full consent.

Even though policies on paper do not directly translate into changes on the ground, last month’s global consensus marks a shift in awareness about child marriage and the priority attention it deserves. For example, the new UN resolution stresses the need to include child, early and forced marriage in the post-2015 international development agenda.

Progress at international fora, however, cannot overshadow the ongoing struggles that child brides and young girls vulnerable to marriage still face. Decades have passed since countries first signed human rights documents that affirm child marriage is a violation of girls’ universal human rights. During this time, millions of girls have married, especially in poor and rural parts of countries in the developing world.

As UN-Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asserted in his recent annual report to the UN General Assembly, “The practice of child marriage must be ended everywhere.” Advocates agree, including young girls and child brides who live in countries that did not sign the UN resolution last month. They’ve agreed for years.

It’s now time to move beyond consensus to action; we know the solutions.

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10 Monday, December 2012

Do you hear me? Child marriage violates my rights

By: Omar J. Robles, 2y2w Contributor

“International law is clear: No matter who you are, or where you live, your voice counts. On this Day, let us unite to defend your right to make it heard.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

Today is Human Rights Day. This year’s theme is my voice counts, highlighting that far too many groups and individuals face deeply entrenched discrimination that keeps them from exercising their rights. For the millions of already-married children—and for the millions of young girls and boys who live where child marriage is a socially acceptable practice—today (and every day) we aim to ensure that their voices and stories are heard.

Stephanie Sinclair/VIIStreet girls attend classes at Godanaw Rehabilitation Integrated Project, GRIP,  in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on May 30, 2007. This is a local humanitarian shelter that has provided skills training and health care to some thousands of street girls--three-quarters of them escapees from early marriages in the countryside.
Stephanie Sinclair/VII
Street girls attend classes at Godanaw Rehabilitation Integrated Project, GRIP, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on May 30, 2007. This is a local humanitarian shelter that has provided skills training and health care to some thousands of street girls–three-quarters of them escapees from early marriages in the countryside.

Sixty-four years ago on December 10, 1948, the international community signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 16 in the Declaration states that marriage should be “entered only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.”

Child marriage violates the standard of full and free consent: the majority of child marriages occur under intense parental pressure and childhood dependency on adult decision-making leave girls vulnerable to collusion and coercion.

General Recommendation 21in the Convention on the Elimination on All Forms of Discrimination against Women is more explicit. It stipulates 18 years as the minimum age for marriage for males and females; the minimum age when young people attain “full maturity and capacity to act.” When girls marry as children, their rights to education, non-violence, and a life of health and equal opportunity are also violated.

Stephanie Sinclair/VIIRadha Bhamwari, 15, observes herself in a cracked mirror the day before her wedding. Three young sisters Radha Bhamwari, 15, Gora Bhamwari, 13, and Rajni Bhamwari, 5, were married to their young grooms, who were also siblings, on the Hindu holy day of Akshaya Tritiya, called Akha Teej in North India. Despite legislation forbidding child marriage in India (Child Marriage Restraint Act-1929) and the much more progressive Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006) and many initiatives to prevent child marriage, marrying children off at a very tender age continues to be accepted by large sections of society.
Stephanie Sinclair/VII
Radha Bhamwari, 15, observes herself in a cracked mirror the day before her wedding. Three young sisters Radha Bhamwari, 15, Gora Bhamwari, 13, and Rajni Bhamwari, 5, were married to their young grooms, who were also siblings, on the Hindu holy day of Akshaya Tritiya, called Akha Teej in North India. Despite legislation forbidding child marriage in India (Child Marriage Restraint Act-1929) and the much more progressive Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006) and many initiatives to prevent child marriage, marrying children off at a very tender age continues to be accepted by large sections of society.

It’s the international community’s responsibility to not only acknowledge children’s right to be heard, but to prioritize action in support of ending child marriage—a human rights violation and form of gender-based violence that the UN estimates will affect 14.2 million girls before the next Human Rights Day.

We should listen. And take action.

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