When a young girl becomes a bride, the consequences are lifelong – for the girl, for her children and for her nation. Every year some 15 million girls around the world are married as children. Over 720 million women alive today were married or entered into union before their 18th birthday. Child marriage cuts across countries, cultures, religions, and ethnicities. If there is no reduction in the near future, 1.2 billion girls will have been married as children by 2050.
Child marriage is rooted in gender inequality and in the low value accorded to girls, and is exacerbated by poverty, insecurity and conﬂict. It denies girls their rights and undermines numerous development priorities. Ending child marriage will require long-term, sustainable action across many different sectors. A robust legal and policy framework for preventing child marriage and supporting married girls should be the cornerstone of government efforts to address the practice.
Members of Parliament are uniquely positioned to shape, advance and implement such a framework, within their countries and beyond. They can lead the development of relevant legislation and policies, pass budgets, monitor implementation, and ensure accountability for both national and international commitments. They can guarantee the voices of citizens are heard, including those of the girl child, in order to mobilise political will and commitment to end child marriage.
Yet, Members of Parliament are often overlooked as essential stakeholders and drivers of change. This toolkit aims to provide concrete examples and recommendations on how interested parliamentarians can take action. It also promotes collaboration with the vibrant civil society organisations working on the issue.
We hope this toolkit will encourage you to join the global movement to end child marriage and initiate or intensify your efforts as a parliamentarian. We believe that by establishing a fruitful and long-term partnership with committed parliamentarians, we can work together towards a world where girls and women enjoy equal status with boys and men.
We wish you every success in your endeavours to end child marriage and to realise the rights of every girl.
Heather B. Hamilton Senior Adviser and Interim Global Coordinator Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage