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Child Marriage: A Worldwide Threat to Child Protection

A talk by A. Alvin Winford (Liberia)
African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN) Liberia, Program Manager

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About this talk

Child marriage is an awfully bad tradition which is carried out in most parts of the world, with impunity. A fundamental human right is the right to consent which is not guaranteed under this timid culture. Regardless of the justification, child marriage is criminal, must be punished, stopped; and not condoned.

This presentation will look at the alarming rate of child marriage across the world, root causes, effects and what must be done to protect children against this vile act.

Globally, UNICEF states that fifteen million girls are married before their eighteenth birthday every year, which amounts to approximately 41,000 child brides per day. Even more worrisome is that nearly 650 million women and girls were married before they turned eighteen. The situation for males is different as data from 82 countries found that almost 1 in 30 boys get married as children. 115 million boys and men were married before they turned eighteen. Thus bringing the total number of child brides and grooms worldwide to 765 million.

While it is true that sub-Africa has the highest rate of child marriage in the world where 35% of young women were married before age 18; other parts of the world are being challenged as well as South Asia has 30%, America and Caribbean 24 % , the Middle East and North Africa 17%, and Eastern Europe and Central Asia 12 %. In the United States, 23 of the States have no minimum age for marriage with parental and judicial consent which indicates a “floor” for marriage, with parents signing off a marriage of a child at any age.

Harmful cultural and social norms, using children for economic gains, weak laws, shaky enforcement of strong laws, keeping children out of school are some factors which are contributing towards the high rate of child marriage. And if not timely addressed, severe consequences such as unwanted child, pregnancy, STIs, illiteracy, poverty, child and maternal mortality and the cycle of violence, poverty and illiteracy would continue to submerge the world’s most vulnerable population – the children.

This presentation will examine violence against children and what must be done to prevent and respond to such violence in Liberia.

Social practices, harmful cultural practices, lapses in the social protection system inadequate information on the rights of children are fueling child labor, child trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse, rape, early and forced marriage, physical violence, abandonment, discrimination and denial of formal education for children.

While Liberia is a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and a signatory to the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, and has a domestic Children Law; the harsh reality is not favorable especially relating to enforcement and monitoring.

The presentation will suggest ways through which to improve and expand on the evidence of violence against children in Liberia, and ways through which such violence can be curtailed to the barest minimum, thereby enabling children to claim their rights.

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