“Sea change” needed to achieve goal of ending child marriage by 2030

In this file photo, a young actress plays the role of Giorgia, 10, forced to marry Paolo, 47, during a happening organized by Amnesty International to denounce child marriage in Rome, on Oct. 27, 2016. (GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP)
Updated 25 June 2018

“Sea change” needed to achieve goal of ending child marriage by 2030

KUALA LUMPUR: A “sea change” is needed to achieve a global goal of ending child marriage by 2030, campaigners said ahead of a major meeting on Monday aimed at stopping the practice.
Some 12 million girls a year are married before the age of 18 with often devastating consequences for their health and education, and ending the practice by 2030 is among the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Rates have fallen in recent years, but advocate Lakshmi Sundaram said “a complete sea change” was needed as new drivers such as climate change and rising conflicts threatened to undermine progress.
“It’s a pretty ambitious target,” said the executive director of campaign group Girls Not Brides, which is hosting the three-day meeting in the Malaysian capital.
“What we do need to see is a real step up from governments and donors ... it’s their duty to protect their citizens and the girls,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
About 25 million early marriages have been prevented in the last decade, the United Nations’ children agency UNICEF says.
The biggest decline was in South Asia, where the risk of a girl marrying before her 18th birthday has fallen from 50 percent to 30 percent, according to UNICEF.
Poverty is often the key reason for child marriage, but protracted conflicts for example in Syria or extreme weathers in countries including Bangladesh, Mali and Niger have put more girls at risk, Sundaram said.
“It brings with it a whole set of new challenges on how best to support girls in those situations,” she added.
Early marriage not only makes it more likely that girls will quit school, but it also increases the risks of exploitation, sexual violence, domestic abuse and death in childbirth, rights groups say.
The practice affects over 650 million women and girls today, UNICEF figures show. The agency also warned there will be another 150 million girls affected by 2030 if the practice is not stopped immediately.
“The key drivers of child marriage are not only poverty and a lack of access to education, but also prevailing gender and socio-cultural norms,” said Sivananthi Thanenthiran, executive director of the Asian Pacific Resource and Research Center for Women.
Improving gender equality would help stop the practice, she added.
About 500 delegates from over 70 countries are attending the meeting, including 17-year-old Hadiqa Bashir from Pakistan.
Bashir escaped an attempt by her family to marry her off when she was 11, and went on to set up an all-girl group, Girls United for Human Rights, that campaigns against early marriages.
“It’s about changing perception of the people and the way they think,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, saying she hopes to find new inspiration from the meeting.


UK’s Boris Johnson likens himself to The Incredible Hulk

Updated 24 min 9 sec ago

UK’s Boris Johnson likens himself to The Incredible Hulk

  • Johnson said he will meet the Oct. 31 deadline no matter what
  • “The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets,” he told the Mail

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has compared himself to The Incredible Hulk in a newspaper interview emphasizing his determination to take Britain out of the European Union next month.
Johnson faces considerable legal and political hurdles but told the Mail on Sunday he will meet the Oct. 31 deadline no matter what.
“The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets,” he told the widely read tabloid, invoking the comic book and film character known for formidable but destructive strength.
Johnson remains defiant even though Parliament has passed a law requiring him to seek an extension to the deadline if no deal is reached by mid-October. He has also lost his working majority in Parliament and been told by Scotland’s highest court that his decision to suspend Parliament was illegal.
Johnson portrays himself as more convinced than ever that Britain will break with the EU at the end of October.
He will have a lunchtime meeting in Luxembourg on Monday with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to try to modify the Irish backstop that has been a main sticking point, but EU leaders did not seem impressed by Johnson’s invocation of the Hulk.
The European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, said the comments showed a lack of maturity.
“Even to Trumpian standards the Hulk comparison is infantile,” he tweeted. “Is the EU supposed to be scared by this? The British public impressed?“
Juncker, who has downplayed hopes of a breakthrough at Monday’s meeting, also expressed alarm that many people in Britain seem to feel a British departure without a deal with the EU would be a positive thing.
“It would be terrible chaos,” he said in an interview with Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio. “And we would need years to put things back in order. Anyone who loves his country, and I assume that there are still patriots in Britain, would not want to wish his country such a fate.”
The Oct. 31 deadline looms large because Johnson has not said he will seek another extension if no deal is reached, despite legislation passed by Parliament shortly before it was suspended.
Britain’s Supreme Court this week will rule on whether Johnson overstepped the law when he shut the legislature for a crucial five-week period.
The Liberal Democrats, who have been enjoying a revival, voted overwhelmingly at their party conference Sunday to end the Brexit process entirely if they come to power.
Party leader Jo Swinson said Article 50, which triggered Brexit, would be revoked if she becomes prime minister.
The party gained an important member Saturday with the defection of Sam Gyimah, a former Conservative minister. He is the sixth legislator to switch allegiance and join the Liberal Democrats this year.
Johnson also continues to take flak from former Prime Minister David Cameron, who called the 2016 referendum on Brexit.
Cameron said in an interview published Sunday that Johnson didn’t really believe in Brexit when he broke ranks and led the campaign to take Britain out of the EU. Cameron had been expecting Johnson’s help during the hard-fought campaign.
Cameron says of Johnson: “The conclusion I am left with is that he risked an outcome he didn’t believe in because it would help his political career.”
Cameron is giving interviews to gain publicity for his upcoming memoirs.