Commonwealth leaders take historic step to end child marriage


Commonwealth leaders take historic step to end child marriage

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Commonwealth leaders have made a commitment to focus on efforts to end the early and forced marriage of millions of girls, following a campaign by Plan and the Royal Commonwealth Society.

At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth, Australia, the leaders’ final communiqué committed to improving gender equality and the empowerment of women by, among other things:

  • implementing international instruments and agreements on women’s rights
  • promoting the implementation of measures to tackle early and forced marriage.

Not to be tolerated
Ian Wishart, Plan Australia Chief Executive Officer, said: “The decision to focus on ending early and forced marriage sends a strong signal to government authorities and communities across the Commonwealth that the early marriage of girls – often against their will and best interests - is no longer a practice to be tolerated.”
He added: “The Commonwealth must now deliver on its commitment to improve gender equality by implementing practical actions that can end the practice of early and forced marriage and transform the lives of the millions of girls throughout the Commonwealth.”

Widespread support
During the week of CHOGM many influential leaders expressed their desire to see an end to forced, early marriages, including Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC CVO, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, Dr Surujrattan Rambachan, Foreign Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and Malcolm Fraser, Former Prime Minister of Australia.
The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, had also been pushing at CHOGM for forced marriage to be a human rights issue on which Commonwealth leaders would agree action.

Human rights violation
Plan and the Royal Commonwealth Society have been campaigning on the issue as a key human rights violation that could be dramatically reduced if the Commonwealth’s member states were willing to take concrete action.
As part of their push for action on the issue, the organisations have released a CHOGM briefing paper called: Empowering Girls: what the Commonwealth can do to end early and forced marriage.
The paper reveals that early and forced marriage is one of the greatest barriers to girls’ education, maternal health and economic empowerment.