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States adopt first-ever resolution on child, early and forced marriage at Human Rights Council – September 2013

UN Human Rights Council in Geneva | Photo credit: U.S. Mission Geneva - Eric Bridiers
  • First-ever resolution on child, early and forced marriage adopted at the Human Rights Council
  • Co-sponsored by a cross-regional group of over 100 countries, including countries with high rates of child marriage
  • Stresses the need to include child, early and forced marriage in post-2015 international development agenda
  • Consensus building on the urgent need to address the issue in international fora

Over 100 countries co-sponsored a resolution on child, early and forced marriage at the Human Rights Council this Friday, calling for the elimination of child, early and forced marriage to be considered in the post-2015 development agenda. The resolution was unanimously adopted and is the first to be passed on the issue at the Human Rights Council.

The resolution recognises child, early and forced marriage as a human rights violation that “prevents individuals from living their lives free from all forms of violence” and negatively impacts the “right to education, and the highest attainable standard of health, including sexual and reproductive health.”

It received cross-regional support from 107 different countries, including countries with high rates of child marriage including Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Chad, Guatemala, Honduras and Yemen.

The Ambassador of Sierra Leone, Yvette Stevenes, introduced the resolution to the Human Rights Council, stating that « efforts [to end child marriage] need to be strenghtened to address this breach of human rights of some of the most vulnerable groups in society ». According to UNICEF, 44% of girls are married before the age of 18 in Sierra Leone; 18% before the age of 15.

The resolution is a welcome development in global efforts to prevent and eliminate the practice of child, early and forced marriage, especially as discussions are underway to define what a new development agenda for the international community will look like when the Millennium Development Goals come to an end in 2015. The resolution recognises that: “the elimination of child, early and force marriage should be considered in the discussion of the post-2015 development agenda”.

The resolution also stresses the value of empowering and investing in women and girls for “breaking the cycle of gender inequality and discrimination, violence and poverty” and for bringing about “sustainable development and economic growth.”

It acknowledges the multi-faceted impact of child, early and forced marriage on the “economic, legal, health and social status of women and girls” as well as “the development of the community as a whole”.

The Human Rights Council is the leading UN body responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights around the world. The resolution calls for a panel discussion on the issue of child, early and forced marriage at an upcoming session of the Human Rights Council in 2014.

This resolution comes at a timely moment following the gathering of world leaders and governments at the 68th session of the UN General Assembly to discuss priorities for the international community. The two-week long event already saw several countries commit to taking an active part in efforts to end child marriage globally.

In a recent report reflecting on a new development agenda, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasised that to achieve equal rights for women and girls “the practice of child marriage must be ended everywhere”.

Read the resolution: English, Français, Español, Arabic.

The States presenting the resolution were: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Armenia, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Chad, Congo, Cuba, Czech Republic, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Djibouti, DRC, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Ghana, Guinea, Haiti, Hungary, Honduras, Iceland, Italy, Ireland, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Morocco, Mozambique, Maldives, Montenegro, Namibia, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Palestine, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Timor Leste, Togo, Tunisia, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, Uganda, United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela, Yemen, Zambia.