Child rights organisation Plan International Australia welcomes the Federal Government’s decision to sign an international charter to end child marriage, a practice that denies the human rights of millions of children in Australia and overseas and condemns girls in the developing world to poverty, abuse and even death.
A report released earlier this month by Plan, Just Married, Just a Child: Child Marriage in the Indo-Pacific Region, urges the government to play a key role in ending child marriage through its foreign aid program and by advocating for a UN General Assembly resolution to end the practice.
This week, Minister for Justice Michael Keenan and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women Michaelia Cash announced that the government signed the Charter to end female genital mutilation (FGM) and child, early and forced marriage at the Girl Summit 2014 in London.
Ian Wishart, CEO of Plan International Australia, says at least 14 million girls under the age of 18 are married each year – nearly 39,000 a day. These girls typically drop out of education and often fall pregnant before their bodies are fully developed – and 50,000 teenagers a year die due to complications in pregnancy or childbirth.
“Minster Keenan and Minister Cash rightfully note that child marriage is a violation of human rights and impedes girls from achieving their economic and social potential and denies them proper access to legal and health services,” Wishart says.
“As well as paying an unimaginable personal price, girls who are married as children also find themselves locked out of education and locked into a cycle of poverty. Supporting girls to secure their rights is one of the most effective ways Australia can help countries in the developing world work their way out of poverty,” Wishart adds. “We welcome the government’s decision to sign this important charter and look forward to working with them to help eliminate a practice that is preventing so many girls around the world achieve their full potential,” he says.
This month’s report urges the government to use its foreign aid program to specifically address child marriage and promote girls’ access to quality education, to work with development partner governments and support civil society programs to end the practice and advocate for a UN General Assembly resolution. It also calls on the government to ensure that 2015’s post-Millennium Development Goals include a target to end child marriage.
The public is also being asked to play an important role in ending child marriage by signing a petition calling on the government to act. The petition will be presented to the government in August.
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Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world, founded 75 years ago, working in 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas and supported by 21 donor countries. Plan is independent, with no religious, political or governmental affiliations.
Media contact: Adam Cathro, Plan International Australia, Media Relations Manager, 0488 202 945