Thursday, October 27, 2011
The forced marriage of young girls takes place on a “shocking scale” in Commonwealth countries, trapping children in a cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and ill-health, activists said yesterday.
Ahead of a Commonwealth summit in Perth this week, Plan International and the Royal Commonwealth Society joined forces to demand more attention to a subject they say infringes basic human rights.
Ian Wishart, chief executive of Plan International Australia, one of the world’s largest children’s development organisations, said one girl under the age of 18 got married every three seconds, usually to older men.
“The shocking fact is that one in seven of the world’s girls will become a child bride by the age of 15,” he said, adding that this often had “devastating consequences”.
“Girls who are married early are more likely to experience violence, abuse and forced sex, increased problems with their sexual and reproductive health, and are much more likely to miss out on their education and to be illiterate.”
Bangladesh has one of the poorest records with a new Plan International report “Empowering Girls: what the Commonwealth can do to end early and forced marriage” showing 32 percent of women married before they were 15.
In India, 47 percent of women are married by the time they are 18, Wishart said.
The London-based Royal Commonwealth Society, which works to promote international understanding, said that if Commonwealth leaders were serious about human rights, then action on early and forced marriage was needed now.
Wishart said, “Girls are constantly telling us they want to be free of forced marriages.
“We are calling on CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) to act on its often abstract statements on human rights and actually turn them into reality. We don’t want words, we want action.”
Composed mainly of former British colonies, the 54-nation CHOGM holds three days of talks from Friday.