Lynne Featherstone's speech on child, forced and early marriage

May 12, 2014 2:33 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Lynne Featherstone gave a speech this morning at a Human Rights Watch event on women's rights, where she spoke about child early and forced marriage.

"This is an extremely timely discussion - highlighted by the shocking events in Nigeria where more than 200 girls have been abducted and where there is a threat of the girls being sold into slavery. This is an extreme example of where girls are being targeted by extremists because they are attending school. They are denied their fundamental rights, and being subjected to a terrifying violent ordeal.

"This appalling event has focused world attention, but it is tragically just one extreme example of the low status of girls and women. Every day there are countless examples of girls and women being trafficked, girls forced into marriage and violence against girls and women - abuses which are undocumented and go unnoticed by the global media."

"…For those of us fortunate enough, growing up is an exciting time of new choices and freedoms; a chance to broaden our horizons. Not so for millions of girls each year who are forced into marriage, often with men much older than themselves. For these girls, doors close, horizons shrink. This is a disaster for human rights and a disaster for development."

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Child, early and forced marriage affects about 14 million girls every year, some as young as 8 years old, and these girls are more likely to suffer domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Tragically, the children of child brides are 60% more likely to die before their first birthday and girls who give birth under the age of 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than girls in their 20s.

In her speech, Lynne said:

"As some of you may know - I am the UK's ministerial champion for ending violence against women and girls and have instigated and led DFID's work on ending female genital mutilation. We have started some excellent work in these areas. I am keen we learn from it and replicate that success in our campaign to end child, early and forced marriage."

Liberal Democrats in government has introduced new legislation to make forced marriage a criminal offence in the UK. In order to sustain initiatives on child, early and forced marriage, action is also going to be taken on an international level. This involves working with developing countries to support resolution at the United Nations to end early, child and forced marriage.

Lynne concluded her speech by saying:

"If we do not take effective action, by 2030 an estimated 220 million more girls in the developing world will marry as children. That would be a tragic human rights failure and missed development opportunity. It doesn't have to be this way. By coming together, and supporting locally owned movements on a global scale, I believe we can break the taboo and support positive social change for all."