India leads global decline in child marriages: UN

An underaged bride, right, stands with family members during her marriage at a Hindu temple near Rajgarh, Madhya Pradesh state, India.. A significant fall in child marriages in South Asia has reduced the rate of marriage for girls globally, the UN children’s agency said Tuesday. (AP/Prakash Hatvalne)
Updated 06 March 2018

India leads global decline in child marriages: UN

NEW DELHI: A significant drop in Indian girls being forced into marriage has led a global decline in the number of child brides, the United Nations said Tuesday.
According to UN children’s agency UNICEF, 25 million child marriages have been prevented around the world in the last decade, with the sharpest drop in India and the rest of South Asia where girls as young as eight have reportedly been forced to wed.
“South Asia has witnessed the largest decline in child marriage worldwide in the last 10 years... in large part due to progress in India,” it said.
“In the current trend, 27 percent of girls — nearly 1.5 million girls — get married before they turn 18 in India. This is a sharp decline from 47 percent a decade ago.”
The risk of a girl being forced to marry before the age of 18 in South Asia has decreased from nearly 50 percent to 30 percent, said a UNICEF statement.
The agency attributed the change to better education for girls, government initiatives and strong awareness programs.
UNICEF said there had also been reductions in African countries such as Ethiopia. About a third of the world’s child brides are in sub-Saharan Africa.
The legal marriage age in India is 18 but millions of children are forced to tie the knot when they are younger, particularly in poor rural areas.
Many parents marry off their children in the hope of improving their financial security.
The results can be devastating, with girls dropping out of school to cook and clean for their husbands and suffering health problems from giving birth at a young age.
In a landmark judgment last year, India’s top court said that sex with an underage wife constituted rape, in a ruling cheered by activists.
UNICEF’s principal gender adviser, Anju Malhotra, warned that a lot of work remains to be done to reach the UN target of eradicating child marriages by 2030.
The agency estimates that 12 million girls are forced into marriage each year, meaning that without further efforts more than 150 million will fall victim to the practice by 2030.
“Each and every child marriage prevented gives another girl the chance to fulfill her potential,” Malhotra said.
“But given the world has pledged to end child marriage by 2030, we’re going to have to collectively redouble efforts to prevent millions of girls from having their childhoods stolen through this devastating practice.”


‘Political reconciliation’ with Pakistan top priority: Afghan envoy Daudzai

Updated 09 July 2020

‘Political reconciliation’ with Pakistan top priority: Afghan envoy Daudzai

  • Pakistan played positive role in US-Taliban peace talks, says diplomat

PESHAWAR: Afghanistan’s newly appointed special envoy for Pakistan has had put “mending political relations” between the two estranged nations as one of his top priorities.

Mohammed Umer Daudzai, on Tuesday said that his primary focus would be to ensure lasting peace in Afghanistan and maintain strong ties with Pakistan, especially after Islamabad’s key role in the Afghan peace process earlier this year.

In an exclusive interview, the diplomat told Arab News: “Two areas have been identified to focus on with renewed vigor, such as lasting peace in Afghanistan and cementing Pak-Afghan bilateral ties in economic, social, political and other areas.”

In order to achieve these aims, he said, efforts would be intensified “to mend political relations” between the neighboring countries.

Pakistan and Afghanistan share a 2,600-kilometer porous border and have been at odds for years. Bonds between them have been particularly strained due to a deep mistrust and allegations of cross-border infiltration by militants.

Kabul has blamed Islamabad for harboring Taliban leaders after they were ousted from power in 2001. But Pakistan has denied the allegations and, instead, accused Kabul of providing refuge to anti-Pakistan militants – a claim rejected by Afghanistan.

Daudzai said his immediate priority would be to focus on “political reconciliation” between the two countries, especially in the backdrop of a historic peace agreement signed in February this year when Pakistan played a crucial role in facilitating a troop withdrawal deal between the US and the Taliban to end the decades-old Afghan conflict. “Afghanistan needs political reconciliation which the Afghan government has already been working on to achieve bottom-up harmony,” he added.

Daudzai’s appointment Monday by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani took place days after Islamabad chose Mohammed Sadiq as Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special representative for Afghanistan.

Reiterating the need to maintain strong bilateral ties with all of its neighbors, Daudzai said Pakistan’s role was of paramount importance to Afghanistan.

“Pakistan has a positive role in the US-Taliban peace talks, and now Islamabad could play a highly significant role in the imminent intra-Afghan talks. I will explore all options for a level-playing field for the success of all these initiatives,” he said, referring in part to crucial peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban which were delayed due to a stalemate in a prisoner exchange program – a key condition of the Feb. 29 peace deal.

Under the agreement, up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and around 1,000 government prisoners were to be freed by March 10. So far, Afghanistan has released 3,000 prisoners, while the Taliban have freed 500. Daudzai said that while dates had yet to be finalized, the intra-Afghan dialogue could begin “within weeks.”

He added: “A date for intra-Afghan talks hasn’t been identified yet because there is a stalemate on prisoners’ release. But I am sure they (the talks) will be kicked off within weeks.”

Experts say Daudzai’s appointment could give “fresh momentum” to the stalled process and revitalize ties between the two estranged neighbors.

“Mohammed Sadiq’s appointment...could lead Kabul-Islamabad to a close liaison and better coordination,” Irfanullah Khan, an MPhil scholar and expert on Afghan affairs, told Arab News.

Daudzai said that he would be visiting Islamabad to kickstart the process as soon as the coronavirus disease-related travel restrictions were eased.

Prior to being appointed as the special envoy, he had served as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan from April 2011 to August 2013.

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