“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.


Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

Updated 19 October 2019

Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

  • The chief of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), blamed technical reasons for missing the timetable
  • She said the results would be announced “as soon as possible”

KABUL: Afghanistan’s election commission conceded its failure to release initial presidential poll results set for Saturday and gave no new deadline for the vote which was marred by Taliban attacks and irregularities.
The presidential poll on Sept. 28 saw the lowest turnout of any elections in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s ousting.
Hawa Alam Nuristani, the chief of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), blamed technical reasons, particularly slowness in entering data on to the server, for missing the timetable.
“Regrettably, the commission due to technical issues and for the sake of transparency could not announce the presidential election initial poll results,” she said in a brief announcement.
Without naming any camp, Nuristani also said: “A number of observers of election sides (camps) illegally are disrupting the process of elections.” She did not elaborate.
Nuristani said the results would be announced “as soon as possible,” while earlier in the day two IEC members said privately that the delay would take up to a week.
The delay is another blow for the vote that has been twice delayed due to the government’s mismanagement and meetings between the US and the Taliban, which eventually collapsed last month after President Donald Trump declared the talks “dead.”
It further adds to political instability in Afghanistan, which has seen decades of conflict and foreign intervention and faced ethnic divides in recent years.
Both front-runners, President Ashraf Ghani and the country’s chief executive, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, have said that they expect to win.
The pair have been sharing power in Afghanistan as part of a US-brokered deal following the fraudulent polls of 2014.
The IEC has invalidated more than 500,000 votes because they were not conducted through biometric devices, bought for the vote from overseas to minimize the level of cheating in last month’s polls.
Officials of the commission said that nearly 1.8 million votes were considered clean and it was not clear what sort of impact the turnout would have on the legitimacy of the polls and the future government, whose main task will be to resume stalled peace talks with the Taliban.
They said that the slowness of data entry on to the server was one of the technical reasons for the delay in releasing initial poll results.
Yousuf Rashid, a senior official from an election watchdog group, described the delay as a “weakness of mismanagement,” while several lawmakers chided IEC for poor performance.
Abdul Satar Saadat, a former senior leader of an electoral body, told Arab News: “The delay showed IEC’s focus was on transparency” and that should be regarded as a sign that it took the issue of discarding fraudulent votes seriously.