UK Government Must Help End Child Marriage


A new report by the charity Plan UK warns the issue of forced and early child marriage continues to be of grave concern world wide and says the UK government must step in to help end this problem.

Called Breaking Vows, the study highlights that one girl is married off every three-and-a-half seconds worldwide, and that in places like Niger, Mali and Chad 70% of girls are married earl y,and will likely conceive not long after only to then struggle through a childbirth they are physically and mentally not prepared for — if they survive at all. The report also says that early marriage puts girls in danger of life-long health complications as well as a greater risk of contracting HIV.

From the Plan UK press release:

While acknowledging Britain’s role in tackling early and forced marriage internationally, Plan is calling on the UK government to do more.

“Why is the international community so silent when so many girls are forced to marry when they are still children?” asks Plan’s chief executive in the UK, Marie Staunton

“Now is the time to act of this abuse of human rights – marriage often spells the end of a girl’s education. She’s also less likely to send her own children to school – perpetuating the poverty cycle.

“Child marriage is a practice embedded in many cultures and traditions – all too often it also increases after humanitarian disasters.”


But early and forced marriage is not confined to poor countries. The UK government’s Forced Marriage Unit received more than 1,700 calls from at-risk girls last year.

“What links girls and young women coerced into wedlock in these countries is the denial of choices,” says Ms Staunton.

“We believe the human rights of children and young people should always be upheld whether they are in the UK or the developing world.”

The report warns that young LGBTs may be especially vulnerable to forced marriages as parents rush to partner them off over fears surrounding their sexual orientation. This ties to problems of parents forcing religious, social and cultural standards upon children at a young age and, when those children do not adhere to said moral codes, parents taking away their a child’s right to choose altogether.

From UK Gay News:

“All young people have the right to decide when and who to marry,“ says Rowan Harvey, policy and advocacy officer for Plan UK.

“Along with corrective rape, forced marriage as a strategy for altering a young person’s sexual orientation is a gross violation of their rights.”

The UK government’s Forced Marriage Unit has reported a growing number of calls from young LGBT people.

Overall, the centre received more than 1,700 requests for help last year.

“The problem is dramatically under-reported and affects young people across the globe, in developed and developing countries,” explains Ms Harvey.

As a signatory to key international human rights initiatives, and with a record of vocal support for women’s rights both legislatively and through donor support, the UK is “uniquely placed” to champion a girls’ right to an education and to ensuring their right to choose when and if to marry, says the report.

As such, Plan UK wants the UK government to do more to help combat child marriage and forced marriages. Plan UK is calling on the government to prioritize the issue on the international agenda, to implement cross-government actions plans to combat forced and early marriage, to prioritize overseas aid with an emphasis on encouraging recipients to allow young girls to be sent to school rather than being married off, and to ensure new support services for girls wanting to escape early or forced marriages.

You can read the report “Breaking Vows” here (.pdf).

UPDATE: Take the Vow to End Early and Forced Child Marriage, Sign the Plan UK Petition.

Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to iz4aks.


Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle6 years ago

I just shudder at this travesty. GIRLS who have no rights, no power, BEING MARRIED OFF, by fathers I assume -- it is a concept that we in the west cannot conceive of, and it certainly is a death sentence if the child is young, will surely be raped and impregnated, and die in childbirth. HORRIBLE.

Janine H.
Janine H6 years ago

This is so terrible. Always when i hear about terrible things it makes med sad, and i cannot understand how someone could do something terrible - hurt, rape or kill a person or animal. When i was a child this also happened to me... and surviving this is more terrible than not (parents and other may think different, but a victim?), living with all this pain... living with guilty feelings... full with hate for the own self
No one can understand, because most people cannot imagine this, cannot imagine how much it change. Some of them think, that this would not be so terrible, because all would make some sexual experiences, and so it would not matter if there were some without own interest or wish. This cruel and superficial society makes me sick.

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers." (Martin Luther King)

KrassiAWAY B.
Krasimira B6 years ago

This is heartbreaking. Is there any petition?

Maarja L.
Maarja L6 years ago

Although it is more common for girls to marry men much older than them there are some countries where both spouses are equally young. So it's not only oppressing girls.

Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

Even with cattle, trying to breed females too young is bad. The cow is likely to be in poor health and worn out from being bred too young, and her calves are likely to be sickly too.

colleen p.
colleen p6 years ago

to all the people who say this will ruin the girl's life. in some parts of the world, they have nothing to look to. they are taught and raised to want nothing more than this. I think even Gypsy girls dream for their wedding day to be a housewife who cooks, cleans and makes babies. You can't "ruin" what had no opportunity. I can only guess some of these cultures would kill their daughters if they were lesbians or infertile.

they don't have the oppertunites others have invented.

there was no world wide feminist revolution 300 years ago.

so it is up to "us", to make it cool to them.
like how some people wear Nike t-shirts when they live in huts in the bush.

teach them, own them.
if they hurt children, it is the right thing to do

Terri Lynn Sullivan

Lilithe...yes this family sanctioned rape is awful. It sounds EQUALLY as sick to me as any family thinking their boys/sons life is worth less than money, any nation, "freedom", land or good family/political tie when it comes to war. How sick for any parents to think in terms of their child (boy OR girl) "fighting for his/her country"...when its really always been conspiracy of secret societies Girls never deserved to be protected from such horror any more than boys. A life is a life, a limb a limb. As least we are moving away from this discrimination of boys/men. sad funding is cut for the commendable work you do. I thought Canada/B.C. area would be better at keeping its social services intact as it does a good job at keeping its military/"defense" spending much lower than the U.S. the U.S. is cutting education, healthcare, social services across board. (to pay for its useless wars on 3 nations) Really sad when any country would put more money into weapons/war while cutting services like what you do, helping children and families out of this crisis. I pray for this man and his beautiful little girl that picture makes me cry.

Zee Kallah
.6 years ago

What horror is this!

Lilithe Magdalene

Family sanctioned rape, and it is a sad world where a girl is worth less to her family than money or cattle or food or some good family/political tie.

Bernadette P.
berny p6 years ago

What can we do about it to the autorities when we suspect it.....petition our governements to stop be politickly correct about this....IF you want to live in OUR country and have OUR nationality then YOU OBEY our laws!

Parents,brothers etc..who try to force mariage on a girl should be VERY SEVERLY punish...not just fined or have a talking too, IF this strong message was sent out we would gradualy stop this!