Chad: National Campaign to End Child Marriage Takes off

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Signature of the official acts during the ceremony by President Idriss Deby Itno

The national campaign to end child marriage - “All together, let’s put an end to the Marriage of Children” - was launched on 14 March 2015 at the Presidential Palace under the high patronage of the presidential couple, and in the presence of high level national authorities, traditional and religious authorities, civil society leaders, heads of diplomatic missions, the UNFPA Representative to the African Union (AU) and UN system Representatives in Chad.

On 14 March 2015, President Idriss Deby Itno promulgated an ordinance prohibiting the marriage of minor children under 18. Under the new law, any person, civil, religious or traditional authority forcing a minor to marriage incurs a 5 to 10 year prison sentence and a fine of CFA 500,000 to 5 million (about USD1,000 to 10,000).

According to a survey, 2 girls out of 3 are married before the age of 18 in Chad. The phenomenon is still deeply rooted in the traditions and customs of many families and communities. The main causes of this phenomenon in Chad are social and cultural constraints, poverty, conflicts and gender inequalities.

“This is a crucial moment in the history of human rights and especially the rights of children in our country. It is unacceptable that today, we continue to force children to marriage ", Chad President, Idriss Deby Itno said, at the launching of the national campaign against the marriage of minors. To end this" medieval practice”, he urged all his compatriots - parents, politicians, religious leaders and members of civil society - to work hand in hand.

"We must commit ourselves together. The African Union has promised to achieve this goal in 2063. But in the meantime, how many generations would we have sacrificed? I say no, Chad must achieve this goal before 2020 and it is in line with our international, regional and sub-regional commitments, "he said.

In his speech, the UNFPA Representative to the African Union, Mr. Constant-Serge Bounda paid tribute to the First Lady for her initiative to launch the campaign to end child marriage. He also praised the leadership demonstrated by President Itno, both internationally and regionally, and his commitment that makes him the voice of voiceless children. Mr. Bounda reiterated that UNFPA will accompany the President in his commitments.

For their part, the Chadian authorities committed to fight child marriages and respect the new institutional and legal measures prohibiting child marriage.

The National Assembly committed to initiate, adopt and enforce laws against gender-based violence including child marriage, advocate for allocation of substantial resources to programs designed to bring sustainable social change with a positive impact on basic rights, norms, values and practices and urge the Government to take and implement measures to promote girls' education enrollment and their retention to the upper level.

Traditional and customary authorities committed to take action and advocate with policy makers and the National Assembly for the adoption and enforcement of laws against gender-based violence, including child marriage, to organize community meetings and use traditional festivals and other events to raise awareness on child marriage abandonment and get involved in activities aimed to eradicating child marriages.

Religious Leaders, Muslim and Christian also committed to take action with the various actors to respect the dignity of children, girls in particular.

For the First Lady of Chad and godmother of the campaign, Mrs. Hinda Deby Itno, the success of this national campaign entails mobilizing parents to reappraise child marriage; a sustained campaign to sensitize the girls on their rights; making services available to girls and the enforcement of adequate law and policies in favor of girls.

"So we need to organize ourselves to fight the retrograde and degrading practices, creating conducive environment that encourages mentality change, working with the girls so that they can develop life plans according to their own desire. This is how we can make a lasting change in behavior on a large scale", Mrs. Hinda Deby Itno stressed.

Other strong components of the ceremony were a play on child marriage that ends with a vibrant plea to prevent child marriage, and testimonies of three girls, early marriage survivors: two of them had obstetrical fistula after childbirth and the third was found HIV positive.

At the end, the Golden Book of the Campaign launch was signed by the Head of State, the First Lady, the Prime Minister, the President of the National Assembly, and all the participants to the event.