Ethiopia: AU urges member states to criminalize child marriages

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - Expressing disgust over the increase of cases of child marriages and other forms of abuse against children, particularly young girls, the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU) has urged all member states to criminalize child marriages.

Child marriages and abuses "have significantly been on the increase in a number of countries in Africa", the Council has noted, stressing that "keeping girls in schools is one of the most effective instruments to end child marriages."

The PSC dedicated its 692nd meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to an open session on 'Ending Child Marriages'.

According to the Council's statement on the session, which was released on Tuesday, promoting the rights of women and girls is very critical, not only in harnessing Africa’s demographic dividend, but also in achieving the sustainable development objectives of AU Agenda 2063 and UN Agenda 2030.

The Council and participants of the session acknowledged that child marriage directly affected the health, rights, well-being and future of children, particularly girls.

"They noted that child marriages have a lasting negative impact not only on the victims, but also on their families and communities and that, besides hurting economies, it also perpetuates intergenerational cycles of poverty," the statement said.

Also, they urged member States to endorse and implement the Safe Schools Declaration and to develop refugee education action plans, with a view to providing inclusive and quality education in refugee situations in Africa.

Furthermore, they stressed the importance of empowering young girls at risk and those already in child marriages, with the necessary information on sexual and reproductive health, as well as on life skills and support networks.

Besides statements made by representatives of AU member states, the diplomatic community and international organizations, Council took note of presentations made by the AU Special Rapporteur on Ending Child Marriages, Madame Marie-Christine Boucoum; the Deputy Representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Ethiopia, Dr. Shalini Bahuguna; Deputy Country Director of Save the Children in Somalia, Mr. Ebrima Saidy; and the Deputy Regional Director of Plan International for Eastern and Southern Africa, Mr. David MacDonald.

In addition, the meeting underscored the importance of training all peacekeepers in child safeguarding, as well as of providing orientation to national defence and security forces of the AU member States on issues relating to children’s rights, particularly girls in emergency or conflict situations.

Council has requested the regional economic communities and regional mechanisms for conflict prevention, management and resolution to develop monitoring and reporting mechanisms for abuse of children in the member States, including child marriages both, in peace  and conflict settings.

The session also requested the AU Commission to take the necessary steps to ensure enhanced awareness raising and civic education campaigns on ending abuse and exploitation of children.
-0- PANA AR 20June2017

20 june 2017 18:10:11

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