Every year, ten million girls are forcibly married before the age of eighteen, many as young as twelve or thirteen years old. That is something like 25,000 girls a day. These young girls suffer sexual abuse and domestic violence and are frequently forced to become mothers at a very early age, putting them at a much higher risk of maternal injury and death. The epidemic of child marriage has mostly received little attention and continues unabated year after year. An organization called The Elders, a group of global leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela in 2007, seeks to change that, launching an ambitious Global Partnership to End Child Marriage called Girls Not Brides that aims to stop the harmful practice in one generation.
This week, a delegation from The Elders, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, will visit India with a focus on girls' development and the impact of child marriage. The primary objective of the Elders' visit is to learn about the causes of child marriage in India, discuss the harmful impact of child marriage on human rights and development, and to encourage local efforts to end the practice. The Elders will meet political and business leaders, UN and NGO representatives, members of the media, and communities affected by child marriage. Because of its large population, India is home to an estimated one third of the world's child brides. The Elders will visit New Delhi and Patna and will also attend a regional meeting hosted by Girls Not Brides.
I asked Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mary Robinson about the implications and factors contributing to child marriage and their hopes and goals for the Girls Not Brides Partnership.