FWRM calls for the stopping of child marriages, 12% of the girl child forced into marriage in the North

FWRM calls for the stopping of child marriages, 12% of the girl child forced into marriage in the North

By Vijay Narayan
Tuesday 12/12/2023
FWRM Executive Director, Nalini Singh Photo: File

Alarming statistics have been revealed where for the first time ever, the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey carried out by the Fiji Bureau of Statistics in 2022 reveals that about 9 percent of women aged 20-29 years old were married off when they were under the age of 18 years.

The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement says the data shows that about 12 percent of the girl child in the Northern Division have been forced into marriage.

The FWRM says these statistics are utterly unacceptable in today’s modern day and age, and no child should be forced to marry, for whatever reason, especially a girl child.

They carried out a survey with 96 Fijian women across Fiji to understand why child marriages are still happening in Fiji.

Among the responses, most of the women stated that unintended teenage pregnancies, poverty, low levels of education and high unemployment rates were key influencing factors inflicting forced marriage of children, especially for the girl child.

FWRM Executive Director, Nalini Singh says child marriages and forced marriages are violations of child protection and human rights.

Singh says this widespread, harmful practice not only compromises a child’s development; it also severely limits their health, wellness, and opportunities in life.

She says this is happening right here in Fiji and globally, where statistics show that at least 12 million girls per year are married before the age of 18.

Singh adds that Fiji has made international commitments via the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Sustainable Development Goals, Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and Universal Periodic Review strengthening local laws relating to marriage through the Fiji Marriages Act (1978).

She says these international commitments in addition to our Marriage Act basically means that it is illegal for anyone to compel any child to be married, whether by legal means or by performing rituals and traditions which carry the same social significance as a marriage.

This also includes cultural and/or religious ceremonies intended to marry children under the age of 18 years old.

Prior to the release of the FWRM’s factsheet, FWRM had engaged in a dialogue with key stakeholders on the survey findings and data.

The key stakeholders included government agencies, faith-based organisations and civil society who recognise that eradicating early and forced marriages in Fiji must be a holistic approach starting with duty bearers and all service providers to recognise that child marriages are illegal in Fiji, and that all referral pathways, reporting, investigation and prosecuting child marriages must be carried out properly to ensure the protection of all girls.

The FWRM factsheet was developed to assist service providers, advocacy organisations, policy makers and legislators on quick facts about child marriage, in their efforts to create awareness about this pressing and unaddressed issue that threatens the potential and the capabilities of our budding young girls who dream of a bright future.

The publication of the factsheet is supported by the Australian Government through the We Rise Coalition in partnership with the International Women's Development Agency.

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