End child marriage now! | Sustainable Population Australia

An independent not-for-profit organisation seeking to protect the environment and our quality of life by ending population growth in Australia and globally, while rejecting racism and coercive population control. SPA is an environmental advocacy organisation, not a political party.

End child marriage now!

On October 11, the United Nations Day of the Girl, Sustainable Population Australia (SPA) joins the international community in calling for an end to child marriage.

National President of SPA, Sandra Kanck, says child marriage violates a girl's right to self-determination, robs them of their childhood, and often condemns them to a life of poor health.

Ten million girls every year, 25,000 girls a day, become child brides. They are significantly more likely to die in childbirth, be physically abused and be infected with HIV.

"Their marriage, often to men three or four times their age, prevents them from completing schooling. It often leads to early pregnancy, with heightened risks of complications endangering their life and that of their child," says Ms Kanck. "Due to lack of education and an early start on child-bearing, these girls also tend to havelarge families, a poverty trap for themselves, their community and their country."

Sustainable Population Australia has joined the campaign Girls Not Brides to raise awareness of the damage caused when the global community turns a blind eye on the plight of these children. According to "Girls Not Brides", girls under 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s. When a mother is under 18, her baby is 60 per cent more likely to die in its first year of life than a baby born to a mother older than nineteen.

"It is encouraging to see that a number of nations are moving to raise the legal age for marriage, or to enforce an existing legal age more vigorously," says Ms Kanck.

"Swaziland is in the process of making forced marriage of girls illegal, and Pakistan is introducing national marriage registration to help enforce existing age laws. Yet currently almost half of all girls in South Asia are married before they turn 18, while in Niger the figure is 75 per cent."

Girls Not Brides is an initiative of The Elders, a group of former world leaders initiated by Desmond Tutu. Mary Robinson is actively participating in the campaign. Former US President Bill Clinton described child marriage as "a form of slavery."

"Poverty can form a tragic vicious cycle, when a girl is married off early so the parents have one less person to feed, but the result is more rapid population growth, creating even greater competition for food resources and economic opportunities," says Ms Kanck.

"The solutions are not simple, and are different in different communities," she says. "Increasing girls' opportunities for education and employment provides a strong disincentive for early marriage. Schools should discuss marriage and reproductive rights with both girls and boys.

"Public information campaigns can make a big difference with little resources, especially when men are engaged in the need for change. Political commitment to change attitudes is invaluable, as the message is more likely to be integrated across a range of programs," says Ms Kanck. "Male politicians are strong role models in their communities, and the views they express carry weight."

SPA calls on the Minister for Foreign Affairs to support the campaign against child marriage.

Further information: Sandra Kanck 08 8336 4114 (or 0417882143)