The United Nations Population Fund (UNFP) estimates that every year 14 million girls under 18 are married without their consent. The Geneva Centre is launching a project to change this devastating statistic.

Child marriage is a violation of human rights, and constitutes an abuse of girls under the pretext of culture, tradition, and religion. It is also part of a vicious cycle of discrimination against women and girls that begins at birth and continues throughout every stage of their lives in the form of reduced education opportunities, de facto and de jure discrimination in private and public life, sexual exploitation, domestic violence, and female genital mutilation.

Neither physically nor emotionally ready to become wives and mothers, girls are at far greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications in pregnancy and childbirth, becoming infected with HIV/AIDS and suffering domestic violence. With little access to education and economic opportunities, they and their families are more likely to live in poverty.

For these reasons, the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue is launching a global initiative to work with governments, international organisations, locals NGO’s amd national institutions to change cultural norms and amend laws which permit the marriage of minors.

At the twenty-fifth session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in March 2014, H.E Huriya Mashoor, the Yemeni Minister for Human Rights, reported on ongoing efforts to “determine a minimum age for marriage in civil law”, and the Geneva Centre hopes to build upon this momentum and work with the relevant authorities in the country to enable this change to take place.

As our work focusses on the Middle East and North Africa region, where the majority of the population identify as Muslim, we will focus our research on the legislative and religious basis for child marriage, and will initially focus on Yemen as a country without laws currently setting a minimum age for marriage.

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