One in every three girls in the developing world is married by the age of 18. One in seven marries before they reach the age of 15. In countries like Niger, Chad, Mali, Bangladesh, Guinea and the Central African Republic (CAR), the rate of early and forced marriage is 60 per cent and over. It is particularly high in South Asia (46 per cent) and in sub-Saharan Africa (38 per cent). Early and forced marriage is most prevalent where poverty, birth and death rates are high, there is greater incidence of conflict and civil strife and lower levels of overall development, including schooling, employment and healthcare. Although the average age at first marriage is gradually increasing worldwide, the pace of change is slow. In Nepal, Guinea and Bangladesh, for instance, the average age at first marriage for girls still remains below 18. Early and forced marriage discriminates against girls and abuses their rights on an unimaginable scale. In this report, Plan UK calls upon the UK Government to increase its efforts to end early and forced marriage through enhanced cooperation across Whitehall, an increase in Department for International Development (DFID) programming in developing countries, and by using its influence to push for effective international policy and action. We believe that implementing the recommendations set out here will enable the Government to meet its existing commitments and will ensure that: -Early and forced marriage is raised up the international agenda to strengthen global commitment to girls’ rights. -All countries ensure girls have legal protection from early and forced marriage and actively prosecute perpetrators. -Funding is increased for programmes that encourage families and communities to prioritise girls’ education over marriage. -Government and donors invest in the support services for girls wanting to escape marriage. -Increased scrutiny strengthens monitoring and reporting of global early and forced marriage. Plan UK believes that improving education and school retention for girls in the poorest countries plays a crucial role in eliminating early and forced marriage. Educated girls are more likely to have the skills, knowledge and confidence to claim their rights. Supporting girls to enrol in school and benefit from free, compulsory basic education (a minimum of nine years), in an environment that supports them to realise their rights, enables them to broaden their choices in life. This in turn works towards achieving the Education for All and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
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