In 2015, more than 190 countries committed to end child marriage by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG Target 5.3 aims to “eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early, and forced marriage.” In 2017, a Human Rights Council Resolution recognized that child, early, and forced marriage (CEFM) is a human-rights violation.

Child marriage is a global problem, spanning countries, religions, and cultures. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), child marriage is any marriage where at least one of the parties is under 18 years of age. It is driven by multiple, complex factors including gender norms, poverty, lack of alternatives, tradition, insecurity, and geographic norms, among others. Girls and women suffer disproportionately. Currently, 12 million girls under 18 years of age are married each year worldwide.

Child marriage threatens the lives and futures of young people. Early marriage robs children of agency to make decisions about their lives. It disrupts their education. It makes them more vulnerable to violence, discrimination, and abuse. It prevents their full participation in economic, political, and social spheres. Girls married young often become pregnant before their bodies are fully developed, which can result in death or disabilities with lasting consequences.

Most of the evidence on child marriage, however, comes from development contexts. Our team’s review of the state of knowledge on child marriage in humanitarian settings found a weak evidence base and that international and national humanitarian response fails to protect girls and boys in humanitarian settings from the harms posed by child marriage.

It is difficult to design effective responses due to a lack of knowledge of the trends and drivers of child marriage in these settings. Therefore, we are undertaking a multi-year, international, and comparative action-oriented research program to develop a better evidence base to inform policy, programs, and advocacy to address child marriage in these contexts.

Our program will investigate child marriage in humanitarian settings for both girls and boys.  With its breath and depth, we will provide ground-breaking information on how conflict, displacement, and return affect the prevalence and nature of child marriage. Results will be designed to specifically inform policy and programing.

Partners to the research program will be part of creating the most current and comprehensive knowledge on and recommendations for addressing child marriage in conflict.  We will work at local, state, regional, and international levels to disseminate the research findings to influence and guide countries’ efforts to address and eliminate child marriage in humanitarian settings.

Addressing Data Gaps on Child, Early, and Forced Marriage in Humanitarian Settings
child marriage in humanitarian settings
By Dyan Mazurana, Anastasia Marshak | January 2020

This report is a comprehensive and user-friendly concept note for a database on child marriage in humanitarian settings, a first step in eradicating the problem.

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