Princess Mabel (fourth left) of the Netherlands and Denmark’s Crown Princess Mary (third right) attend the Women Deliver 2013 conference in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
Activists called for action yesterday against the practice of child marriage that remains a widespread practice throughout the world.
Lakshmi Sundaram, global coordinator of the advocacy group Girls Not Brides, said the practice was harmful to the development and health of girls and women.
She said complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for girls aged 15-19 in the developing world.
“There is a perception that somehow marriage protects girls,” she told the third Global Women Deliver conference in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.
“But that is not the case; it simply means that child brides fall off our radar and that the sexual, emotional and physical burdens they face are ignored,” Sundaram said.
The UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women estimated that 39,000 girls younger than 18 years old are married each day throughout the world. It said more than 140mn girls will become child brides during this decade if current trends continue.
The International Centre for Research on Women said among the child marriage hotspots are India, Bangladesh, Niger, Chad, Guinea, Central African Republic, Mali, Mozambique, Madagascar and Burkina Faso.
“We have seen a palpable increase in international attention on the issue,” Sundaram said. “There’s a lot more interest both in the governments of countries where the issue is prevalent and also in donor countries.
“If we actually put our heads together we can actually put an end to it,” she said.
“If a woman was married when she was a woman and not a girl, its very unlikely that her daughter will be married as a girl.”
More than 4,000 people are participating in the three-day event to discuss wide-ranging issues facing women around the world.
Among the guests were Norway’s Crown Princess Mette-Marit, Denmark’s Crown Princess Mary and Netherlands Princess Mabel of Orange Nassau.
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