‘Child marriage is not the right way to shield girls from sexual crimes’

As the demand for lowering the age of marriage has sparked outrage, the United Nations has told India that child marriage is not the right way to shield girls from sexual crimes.

In a joint letter to Union Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath, four U.N. organisations have urged India to address the issue of child marriage immediately and seek a political commitment to the goal of ending this harmful practice.

Written to mark the U.N.’s first International Day of the Girl Child, observed on Thursday, the letter says child marriage denies a girl childhood, disrupts her education, limits her opportunities, increases the risk of her becoming a victim of violence, jeopardises her health, and therefore constitutes an obstacle to the achievement of nearly every Millennium Development Goal and the development of healthy communities.

“Today, 11 October, is the U.N.’s first International Day of the Girl Child. … this year’s day focuses on child marriage, which is a fundamental human rights violation and impacts all aspects of a girl’s life.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on December 19, 2011 to declare 11 October the International Day of the Girl Child, calling all member countries to recognise the rights of girls,” it points out.

More than 40 per cent of the world’s child marriages happen in India. In eight States of the country, more than half of young girls are married before they attain the age of 18, it says.

“There is an urgent need to raise awareness of the negative consequences of child marriage … The U.N. reaffirms its commitment to work hand in hand with the government of India to deliver a multi-sectoral response to addressing child marriage, including strengthening law enforcement, investing in the education of girls and giving them skills to become economically empowered.” The letter is signed by Frederika Meijer, Country Representative, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); Louis-Georges Arsenault, Representative, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); Anne Stenhammer, Regional Programme Director, U.N. Women, South Asia Sub Regional Office; and Kiran Mehra-Kerpelman, Director, U.N. Information Centre for India and Bhutan.

AIDWA’s call

The All-India Democratic Women’s Association has condemned the spate of rapes in Haryana and demanded action against the culprits.

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