Did you know that an estimated 12 million girls under 18 are married each year globally? This is approximately 32,876 girls a day, or 23 girls every minute who are victims of child marriage. 😱😢
In Malaysia, approximately 15,000 cases of child marriage were recorded between 2007 and 2017. Child marriage occurs across the country, urban and rural and throughout all ethnic and religious communities. While both boys and girls are affected, the impact on girls is greater. 90% of children married in 2018 were girls!
COVID-19 has also further compounded the situation. UNICEF recent analysis COVID-19: A threat to progress against child marriage – released on International Women’s Day – reveal that 10 million additional child marriages may occur before the end of the decade, threatening years of progress in reducing the practice. The report warns that school closures, economic stress, service disruptions, pregnancy, and parental deaths due to the pandemic are putting the most vulnerable girls at increased risk of child marriage.
Child marriage denies girls their rights
For some of these women and girls – this means a life of being denied their rights. Denied a seat in the classroom. Denied a chance to make their own decisions and denied a voice.
Child marriage exposes children to particular risks and threats to their well-being, including exploitation and abuse, as well as health risks posed by early pregnancy and childbirth.”
–Dr Rashed Mustafa Sarwar, UNICEF Representative to Malaysia and Special Representative to Brunei Darussalam
A variety of interlinking factors contribute to children in Malaysia being married off before the age of 18:
- low household income and poverty;
- lack of access to education and poor school attendance;
- social and cultural norms that allow and perpetuate traditional practices of child marriage;
- lack of access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information and services;
- lack of parental awareness and understanding of SRH (leading to parents’ inability to communicate with children effectively on these issues to better guide and protect them);
- lack of a standardized minimum age of marriage, and laws that allow and facilitate child marriage; and
- finally, the lack of legal status and rights of undocumented, stateless, refugee and asylum-seeking communities.
Gender inequality cuts across all of these issues.
We are in this together
Child marriage is not only a violation of girls’ human rights, but also represents a substantial economic burden for countries.
In Malaysia and around the world, the call to end child marriage has been gaining momentum. The best interests of children must be the motivating factor to garner support and push for reform on all fronts. The National Strategy Plan in Handling the Causes of Child Marriage (2020-2025) by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development and the Sabah’s state action plan are good starting points.
Young people are also important to help challenge the prevailing cultural norms that allow children to marry before the age of 18. By speaking out together, young people can help to make sure everyone knows that child marriage threatens girls’ lives and health and limits their future prospects.
We ALL need to work together, to do whatever we can to ensure our girls are protected.
What you can do:
1. Join the Conversation
Join our virtual multi-stakeholder Panel Discussion “Towards Ending Child Marriage” on 9 March 2020 in conjunction with International Women’s Day. Young people are invited to attend. Register here today!
2. Spread the word
In 2018, the Girl Guides Association Malaysia produced a series of posters for it’s #NoBridesUnder18 campaign. We welcome you to share these posters on your social media to create awareness and call for the protection from marriage for girls and boys in Malaysia. Please tag UNICEF Malaysia and Persatuan Pandu Puteri Malaysia in your posts.
#GenerationEquality #EndChildMarriage #NoBridesUnder18