READ MORE: Afghan rapper escaped teen marriage by singing about it, By Shuka Kalantari, PRI (12 May 2015).
The London-based organization, Plan UK, is taking a bold approach to ending child marriage in its new campaign bearing the slogan, “Give child marriage the finger.” Campaign ads feature the image of an empowered young woman using her ring finger (much as one might use one’s middle finger) to express her views on child marriage. The campaign invites supporters to:
Wear it. Share it. End it. Give child marriage the finger, take a selfie and share it online: #endchildmarriage
Likely to empower some and offend others, this campaign is sure to call attention to the issue it seeks to address. READ MORE: Give child marriage the finger, the provocative Plan UK’s campaign, By Beatrice Credi, West (17 March 2015).
Kudos to our friends at Tahirih Justice Center who led this week’s advocacy efforts in the nation’s capital, and to the brave survivors who shared their own painful forced-marriage experiences in hopes of inspiring the U.S. Government to take definitive action against harmful marriage practices:
Tahirih has been working for the past three years with a coalition of women’s groups in North America on the campaign to curb forced marriage. They met with White House officials last week, asking for national legislation similar to a new law in the United Kingdom that makes forced marriage a crime, and they have put on dramatic readings and skits in five U.S. cities this spring that tell the stories of girls like Mariam.
GJI is proud to be a part of the growing movement to end forced marriage in the USA.
READ MORE: Women’s groups campaign in D.C. to help victims of forced marriages, Washington Post (21 March 2015).
Kudos to Jeanne, Casey, and Heather of @TahirihJustice, who led a team of advocates and survivors who moved the needle today on a compelling shared cause! GJI was honored to be at the table when Tahirih presented White House Staff with a petition signed by more than 100,000 supporters urging White House action to combat forced marriage in the USA. READ MORE HERE!
Join us and lend your John Hancock to Tahirih’s petition urging White House action against forced marriage in the USA (please SHARE far & wide)!
Kudos to MS Magazine and Angelina Jolie for tackling the compelling global problem of Forced, Early and Child Marriage! We here at GJI hope that the Magazine and Ms. Jolie will use this opportunity to also elevate public awareness about the fact that forced early marriage happens right here in the United States, too.
Currently, the U.S. has very few laws or resources to help our girls avoid or escape forced marriages, and most of the relevant authorities and first responders are not currently trained or funded to intervene on behalf of victims. The Tahirih Justice Center is doing fine work to combat forced marriage – they’re currently conducting a national Heartbeats Tour, and they conducted the first-ever U.S. forced marriage study, which found thousands of forced marriage cases in the U.S. in the two years preceding the study alone. Tahirih’s leadership has made clear that they believe these early numbers represent only the tip of the iceberg. To learn more about how forced, early and child marriage impact women and girls in the U.S., see GJI’s FAQs and U.S. case examples.
Most Americans remain unaware that harmful marriage practices happen frequently right here in the Homeland. So, thank you for bringing attention to this important global issue, MS. and Ms. Jolie – and, please, use this opportunity to also elevate the plight of U.S. women and girls forced into unwanted early marriages!
“A new law could make [forced marriage] a crime. So why do those who champion prevention oppose it?” READ ON to find out…
66 years ago, representatives of 50 countries crafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first global expression of the principle that all persons possess certain fundamental, inalienable rights. Tremendous progress has been made since the UDHR’s adoption, but there is tremendous work left to do to fulfill the UDHR’s promise.
Forced early marriage is an egregious human rights violation that profoundly impacts women and girls worldwide. Many international instruments establish the right to choose whether, when and whom to marry. Forced early marriage also impedes victims’ realization of other fundamental human rights – such as health, education, equality, non-discrimination, freedom from violence and exploitation.
This International Human Rights Day, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urges us all to honor our commitment to respect, protect, and fulfill all people’s fundamental human rights 365 days/year.
Many Americans are surprised to learn that every U.S. State allows minors to marry and that, as a result, every year many minors are forced by their own parents into unwanted marriages. UNICEF and other international human rights community leaders have emphatically defined 18 as the minimum age at which a person might possess the requisite physical and psychological maturity to meaningfully comprehend the responsibilities and consequences of marriage, and to give free, full, and informed consent to marry. As a result, more and more countries are amending their laws to set 18 as the minimum age for marriage. In a recent BNA Bloomberg article, Too Young to Tie the Knot, GJI Co-founder/Director Julia Alanen calls upon federal and state officials to take a firm stand against forced and early marriage in the USA:
States’ antiquated marriage laws, designed to prevent
minors from marrying against their parents’ wishes,
frequently fail to prevent parents from forcing their
children into unwanted marriages … The responsibilities
and potential consequences of marriage are simply
too grave and enduring to be assumed by any means
other than the free, full, and informed consent of two
adults. State legislators should be urged to reform their
state’s’ marriage laws so that kids can no longer tie the
In its Foreign Affairs Manual, the U.S. State Department emphatically denounces forced marriage as ‘‘a violation of basic human rights’’ and, where a minor is involved, ‘‘a form of child abuse, since the child will presumably be subjected to non-consensual sex.’’ Former Secretary Clinton routinely champions the cause overseas, and the U.S. Agency for international Development (USAID) recently dedicated $4.8M in foreign aid to combat child marriage. The thrice defeated International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act, proposing U.S. action to eradicate early marriage in developing countries, included neither provisions nor parallel legislation to tackle the problem here at home. As the United States takes measures to combat harmful marriage practices abroad, we must lead by example by acknowledging and addressing harmful marriage laws and customs within our own borders.
As with parental kidnapping and forced early marriage, many common forms of child abuse begin in the family home. READ MORE: 5 myths & misconceptions regarding violence against children, Irine Ogrodnik, Global News (3 December 2014)
Father faces jail in ICoast test case on child marriage, By Adama Bakayoko, AFP (October 28, 2014).
GJI applauds our colleagues at the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates, who yesterday passed a Resolution condemning Forced Marriage in the USA! The ABA is the largest national association of attorneys in the United States, and one of the largest voluntary professional associations worldwide. Its Resolution follows a 2011 national survey conducted by the Tahirih Justice Center that uncovered as many as 3,000 cases of forced marriage across 47 states in just two years.
- Recognizes that forced marriage is practiced in the United States
- Condemns harmful marriage practices as a form of violence and a fundamental human rights violation
- Urges governments at all levels in the U.S. to amend existing laws or to enact new laws to prevent forced marriages and protect individuals facing forced marriage
- Promotes specialized training for key responders, such as judges, prosecutors, law enforcement, child protection authorities, victim-witness advocates, and attorneys, and
- Calls for collaboration with forced marriage experts at direct services and advocacy organizations to develop victim-centered remedies and resources
GJI co-founder and Forced Marriage Prevention Initiative director, Julia Alanen, says, “This ABA Resolution, coming at a pivotal time when the U.S. Government has failed to acknowledge that forced marriages aren’t limited to distant others in developing countries, represents a powerful national call to action.”
Julia Alanen, Too Young to Tie the Knot, Vol. 40 Family Law Reporter 49 (October 28, 2014).
For more information on forced marriage, visit GJI’s e-Library.
The disturbing case featured in this MailOnline article illustrates that boys and men can be victims of forced marriage, too. In 8-year-old Senele’s case, his marriage was not legally binding. But, as GJI co-founder Julia Alanen observes in her article, Shattering the Silence Surrounding Forced Marriage in the U.S., “The fact that a nonconsensual marriage is legally void or voidable (nonbinding) is cold comfort for a traumatized ‘wife’ who has been beaten, confined, raped, impregnated, or otherwise terrorized, tortured, or abused by her alleged spouse.”
By framing forced marriage as strictly a women’s issue, we risk failing to protect men and boys. Alanen warns, “Although gender norms render women and girls particularly vulnerable to harmful marriage practices, it is critical that remedies and resources developed to combat forced and early marriage address all victim demographics.”
Kudos to the fierce advocates at Tahirih Justice Center‘s Forced Marriage Initiative for calling on the U.S. to address forced marriage customs in CONUS: “At this week’s Girl Summit, a gathering of governments, NGOs, and leaders from around the world, the U.S. government failed to issue any meaningful commitments to address forced marriage in the U.S.” Quick to criticize foreign governments’ failure to curb this harmful practice overseas, the USG has yet to step up and acknowledge that forced marriage happens in the homeland, too…
According to the Daily Mail, Australia is piloting an important new education campaign designed to arm learners to identify cases of forced marriage, something UK schools have been doing for years. GJI hopes to see the U.S. take steps to integrate this critical theme into it’s secondary school curricula.
Epoch reports that Canada has invested $20 Million into UNICEF’s efforts to end child marriage overseas. The Canucks are starting to look like an emerging global leader in combating forced/early marriage, both at home and abroad. Will the U.S. follow the example set by it’s neighbor to the North…? We at GJI think it will.
For many children the realities of childhood are far removed from the idyllic notion of play, learning and development. This is particularly true for girls who experience early marriage.
Around the world about 14 million girls under the age of 18 marry each year. Although the practice tends to be more prevalent in developing countries it also happens in European nations such as Turkey.
These facts about early marriage highlight some of the areas for concern:
- In the developing world one in every nine girls is married before she reaches 15
- Some countries such as Niger and Mali have rates of early marriage in excess of 70 per cent
- Many countries, such as Gabon, have a legal age of marriage of 18 for boys but 15 for girls
The consequences of early marriage for girls are only negative and include:
- Illiteracy. The majority of girls who enter into early marriage have either had no schooling or have had it interrupted. This results in high rates of illiteracy making the girls unable to work and totally reliant on their husband for everything. A mother’s educational achievement has a much greater impact on their children than the father’s so this begins a cycle of poor education that can persist for generations.
- Greater Risk Of Death In Childbirth. When a girl is subject to early marriage she is more likely to have children before her body is properly ready for it. In countries where child marriage rates are high there are high rates of maternal mortality and infant mortality. Pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death in girls aged 15-19 in the poorest countries.
- Higher Rates Of Sexual Infection. Girls who are part of an early marriage are at much higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV. They have neither the education nor the power to ensure that safe sex practices are followed. Because their husband will be much older he is at more risk of carrying STIs. Many STIs affect general health, increase mortality and damage fertility.
- Increased Levels Of Abuse. Research has shown that women who enter into early marriage are more likely to be beaten and sexually abused by their husbands. Due to a lack of education they are also much more likely to believe that their husbands have a right to abuse them.
Because early marriage is a complex issue with a multitude of contributing factors including poverty, gender discrimination and deeply entrenched traditions, tackling it isn’t an easy thing.
You can help by contributing to a charity that tackles this problem head on. Your money will help fund projects such as:
- Protection schemes
- Increasing educational opportunities for girls
- Educational initiatives to change attitudes in communities
- Petitions and lobbying of governments to make institutional changes that outlaw early marriage
It won’t be an easy task but thanks to a lot of hard work things are beginning to change for the better, though there is still much to be done.
To find out more about early marriage and what you can do to help visit Plan UK’s website
This Post Was Contributed by Guest Blogger, Holly Hudson
Washington Post: “[Iraq’s proposed new] law…would…permit boys to marry as young as 15 and girls to marry as young as nine. Girls younger than nine would be permitted to marry with a parent’s approval. ‘Iraq is in conflict and undergoing a breakdown of the rule of law,’ women’s rights activist Basma al-Khateeb told Human Rights Watch. ‘The passage of the Jaafari law sets the ground for legalized inequality’.”
Find out what GJI co-founder, Julia Alanen, and panelists from Tahirih Justice Center and the Barbara Schlifer Memorial Clinic had to say last week at American University about Forced Marriages in the U.S. and Canada…
Pictured, from left to right: Natalie Nanasi (American University), Farrah Khan (Barbra Schlifer Clinic), Heather Heiman (Tahirih Justice Center), and Julia Alanen (Global Justice Initiative)
…a tragic consequence resulting from a harmful cultural practice. In forced marriage cases, the groom may be as unwilling as the bride to tie the knot…
Child bride forced to marry poisons groom, April 10, 2014, USA Today.