First International Day of Girl Child today
Civil society calls for end to child marriages
* 24 percent girls reportedly married off before they turn 18
* Organisations urged to bring behavioural change in society regarding early marriages
ISLAMABAD: As the world celebrates the first International Day of Girl Child today, ActionAid Pakistan, Blue Veins (BV) and Girls Not Brides (GNB) on Wednesday call for action to end girl child marriages in Pakistan.
On the inaugural ceremony of the International Day of Girl Child at a local hotel, Blue Veins and ActionAid Pakistan called for urgent actions to address child marriage in Pakistan where 24 percent of girls are married off before they turn 18. They also urged the government to review the Child Marriage Restraint Act and called upon civil society organisations to join hands to bring behavioural change in community regarding early girl marriages.
United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) Executive Director Dr Babatunde Osotimehin said that child marriage is an appalling violation of human rights and robs girls of their education, health and long-term prospects.
“Since many parents and communities also want the very best for their daughters, we must work together to end child marriage.”
October 11 marks the first ever International Day of Girl Child, recognised by the United Nations as a day to promote the rights of girls and address the unique challenges they face.
The United Nations has chosen child marriage as its theme to mark the day this year, underlining the urgent need to address a practice that robs 10 million girls a year of their childhood.
Child brides usually drop out of school, are more likely to die or suffer injury in childbirth and are more vulnerable to domestic abuse than unmarried girls of the same age. Day of the Girl is recognition that we must address the unique needs of adolescent girls if we are to increase equality and prosperity in Pakistan.
“Child brides have little exposure to education, friends or their family. Every basic right they have is violated. When girls are married off before 18 years, they lose their childhood, dolls and friends. They are denied the right of making decisions for their own life. They have right to stay in school and gain the skills to lift them and their family out of poverty. We want to see a world without child marriage,” said ActionAid Pakistan Policy Manager Uzma Tahir.
Blue Veins President Shaheen Quresh said, “One out of seven girls around the world is married before 15 [years of age] and some girls are married as young as 8. Day of the Girl is a chance to raise our voice and tell world leaders that we must act to end child marriage. We are committed to keeping girls in schools, raise community awareness and enact and enforce laws that set a minimum age of marriage.”
“The rate of child marriage is declining in many countries, but the pace of change is too slow. Day of the Girl is an opportunity to highlight successful programmes that are helping end child marriages. It is also an occasion to focus on what still needs to be done to bring an end to a practice that has a devastating impact on the lives of so many girls,” said Lakshmi Sundaram, the global coordinator of Girls Not Brides.
The speakers also expressed their views by saying that child marriage hinders the achievement of 6 of the 8 Millennium Development Goals; Girl Child marriage is a serious human rights violation that denies girls their rights to consensual marriage, education, health, and the right to live in safety.
They said that around the world, 400 million women now aged 25-49 were married as children (UNICEF, 2012). Girls under 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s.
When a mother is under 18, her baby is 60 percent more likely to die in its first year of life than a baby born to a mother older than 19 years of age. ActionAid Pakistan and Blue Veins will hold a doll protest and a press conference at the National Press Club today (Thursday) in connection with child marriages.
* When girls are married off before 18 years, they lose their childhood, dolls and friends
* Girls under 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s
* 400 million women now aged 25-49 were married as children