“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.

Karzai urges Ghani to drop truce as pre-condition for talks with Taliban

Updated 21 January 2020

Karzai urges Ghani to drop truce as pre-condition for talks with Taliban

  • Ex-president says Taliban offer to reduce violence a ‘major development’

KABUL: Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has urged President Ashraf Ghani to drop the pre-condition of cease-fire to begin talks with the Taliban amid high hope that the US and Taliban delegates will sign a deal following more than a year of secret discussions.

Speaking in an interview with BBC local service, Karzai said the government “should not block intra-Afghan dialogue under the pretext of cease-fire.” He said the Taliban offer for reduction in violence as the group says is nearing to ink the deal with American diplomats in Qatar, was a “major development.”

He said Ghani needed to accept the Taliban offer.

Ghani says truce is a must ahead of starting any negotiations with the Taliban calling reduction in violence a general term and arguing that such a call by the Taliban political leaders in Qatar only goes to show that they have control over field commanders back in Afghanistan.

The Taliban say the group will announce truce when the intra-Afghan dialogue begins which will happen after Washington sets timetable for withdrawal of the troops.

Washington at least on one occasion called off the talks with the Taliban in Qatar due to Taliban attacks back in Afghanistan as discussions continued in Qatar despite none of the warring sides having committed to halt offensives during the talks.

Ghani’s government has been sidelined from all rounds of talks between the Taliban delegates and US diplomats led by Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar. There has also been rift between Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who shares power with the president in the National Unity Government, on the pre-condition of cease-fire.

Unlike Ghani, Abdullah is happy with reduction of violence. Talking in a meeting of council of ministers, Abdullah on Monday indirectly said Ghani had taken the peace process in his monopoly.

 “Peace is not one person’s monopoly, one person’s wish — but it is a collective desire, and the people of Afghanistan have the right to take a position regarding the peace process,” said Abdullah.