Forced marriage of children is a huge problem across the world and even within the UK.
The International Research Centre on Womens’ Rights has estimated that 33% of girls in the developing world are married before the the age of 18. Child marriage is most common in Sub-Saharan and Western Africa as well as Asia.
Child marriage creates many problems. It removes girls from their homes, families and communities at a young age. This can leave them in a vulnerable position and at risk of harm and abuse. It can also interupt their schooling and reduces their ability to enter the workforce. The effects of child marriage can be devastating for boys as well as girls.
UK law, and international law, makes it very clear that forced marriage of children is a fundemental restriction of their human rights. Article 16(2) of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) stipulates that: Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
At such a young age, it is impossible for children to consent to a marriage.
UNICEF have also reported that marriage of children is most prevalent within the most deprived communities.
Astoundingly, child marriage occurs within the UK. The UK Government set up the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) to tackle these issues and help to protect children. Legislation has also been brought into force to help prevent forced marriages of vulnerable people, known as Forced Marrriage Protection Orders.
Anyone effected by these issues can contact a family or child rights lawyer for assistance.