Ending child marriage

On March 8th, International Women’s Day, UNICEFand Bridal Musings released a disturbing video to raise awareness on a phenomenon that continues to afflict girls around the world, including in the United States. Through this video, UNICEF hoped that:

“by casting a bride who may not seem at risk of child marriage, and replicating a high-end “Western” wedding, we will provoke conversations on equal rights for girls everywhere.We all agree this video is deeply disturbing, yet 41,000 girls under 18 will be married today — in real life.
Today also marks a turning point in global efforts to end child marriage, with the launch of the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage, which will reach more than 6 million girls in 12 countries.”

Disturbing video sheds light on the horrors of child marriage, by Salmey Bebert, UNICEF Niger.

The perception remains that child marriage is a major problem in other countries. A country like Niger; has the highest global rate of child marriage  with three quarters of all girls in the country married before their 18th birthday. However, ending child marriage is a battle that we must fight in the United States too:

Tahirih Justice Center, a non profit working with courageous women fleeing gender based violence, is at the forefront of leadign advocacy efforts to end child marriage on our American soil.

In Virginia, a historic bipartisan bill ending child marriage is in the works to getting approved by the Governor. The House and Senate passed two bills to raise the minimum marriage age and to protect children from being forced into marriage. Similar bills are pending in states such as Maryland, New York and New Jersey.  In Virginia, 4,500 children under 18, mainly girls;married significantly older men between 2004 and 2013. The delegates worked closely with different organizations and stakeholders to ensure the bill took into consideration the intersectionality and risks comprised in child marriage such as:

“intimate partner violence, and sexual violence; the serious vulnerabilities of teen girls generally to abuse; and the many obstacles due to their legal status as minors that compromise children’s ability to refuse, prevent or leave a marriage.” – See more at: http://www.tahirih.org/news/historic-bill-to-prevent-child-marriage-heads-to-governors-desk/#sthash.u1wOMuFh.dpuf

On this international women’s day, we should and can applaud the progress observed by some women. Yet, the impact of child marriage, particularly as it affects 15 million girls around the world, reminds us that equality, self determination, and choices in the way one leads her life, has yet to become a reality for many other women.

 

Camille Van Kote

About Camille Van Kote

Camille Van Kote is a third year student at the University of Houston Law Center. She graduated from Barnard College in 2012. As an undergraduate, she worked as an AmeriCorps member for Jumpstart for Young Children. She was also involved with the Columbia Child Rights Group, where she spearheaded various campus-wide events, including film screenings, conferences and fundraisers, to promote awareness on children’s issues. She interned at Tahirih Justice Center and Kids in Need of Defense, working with courageous women and unaccompanied minors fleeing violence. This past summer, she interned at the Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights, an NGO advocating for sexual and reproductive rights as human rights.

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