Child, early and forced marriage
Each year an estimated 15 million girls, aged under 18, are forced into marriage.
Today, this means that there are more than 700 million women and girls worldwide who were married as children.
Canada works to end child, early and forced marriage so that girls around the world can reach their full potential. Their quality of life is increased by:
- learning about and exercising their human rights
- taking care of their health
- going to school
We are taking part in efforts to educate people about the devastating effects of child, early and forced marriage. We work in developing countries with girls, their families, communities and governments to eliminate this harmful practice.
The effects of child, early and forced marriage
Child, early and forced marriage is a global problem. Child brides can be found in every region of the world
However, most girls forced to marry at a young age live in developing countries:
- one in three girls in developing countries are married by the age of 18
- one in nine marries before the age of 15
Child, early and forced marriage occurs for a number of reasons including gender inequality, poverty, insecurity and tradition. Marrying at such a young age means that these young girls often get pregnant when they are not mentally or physically ready.
- These young mothers are more at risk of health complications.
- Childbirth is the leading cause of death among girls between the ages of 15 and 19 in developing countries.
- Child brides are also at a greater risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and from suffering domestic violence.
- These girls tend to drop out of school at a younger age and they have little access to opportunities, such as holding a job, outside the home.
- When girls marry early, they and their families are more likely to live in poverty.
What is Canada doing to end early, child and forced marriage?
Canada is determined to raise awareness and generate action to end this harmful practice. The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes a target to end child, early and forced marriage.
To reach this target, Canada is:
- raising awareness about child, early and forced marriage
- investing in projects that prevent the practice and to support girls and women who are already married
- building partnerships to ensure that we fully implement the 2030 Agenda
Talking about the risks
Helping girls, their families and communities learn about the risks of child, early and forced marriage is critical to changing social norms and traditions.
Canada works closely with local partners in the countries that are most affected to raise awareness and generate a conversation about the harmful effects of child, early and forced marriage.
Taking action at the local level
Ending child, early and forced marriage requires action across all sectors, including health and education, and with a variety of stakeholders including governments, civil society, communities, families and girls themselves.
Canada is working with UN agencies, governments, Canadian and international civil society partners and local community groups to empower girls, mobilise families and communities, provide services and establish and implement laws and policies. We support activities to end child, early and forced marriage around the world. Activities include:
- Working directly with girls to help them understand their rights and encourage them to exercise them.
- Creating safe spaces where girls can learn life skills, including learning about their health and services available in their community.
- Working with families and communities to change attitudes and behaviours, including men and boys, cultural and religious leaders, as well as parliamentarians to raise awareness about the negative consequences of child, early and forced marriage.
- Working with governments to strengthen laws and policies that prevent child, early and forced marriage.
Working in partnership with the United Nations and regional organizations
Canada leads efforts to develop resolutions at the Human Rights Council and at the United Nations General Assembly that commit Member States to take action to end this practice. Canada and Zambia developed the first-ever United Nations General Assembly resolutions on child, early and forced marriage, which were passed in 2013 and 2014.
At the Human Rights Council, Canada worked with other countries to develop and sponsor resolutions on eliminating child, early and forced marriage in both 2013 and 2015.
Canada has also worked closely with regional organizations, including the Commonwealth, la Francophonie and the African Union to end child, early and forced marriage.
Working with partners toward common global goals
Key partners help us achieve our global goals to end child, early and forced marriage. Working with partners to implement projects in high prevalence countries supports global efforts to create change for vulnerable girls.
These efforts include partnerships with organizations such as:
- Care Canada
- Commonwealth of Learning
- Oxfam Canada
- Plan International Canada
- Save the Children Canada
- United Nations Population Fund
- Canada’s offices abroad – taking action to end child, early forced marriage
- Girls Not Brides
- Six reasons why we made huge progress on child marriage in 2015
- Raising voices for women and girls
If you believe you are being forced into marriage, please visit our site on Forced marriage.
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