I will be part of a special panel presented by the United Nations Association of New York addressing the human rights and developmental impacts of child, early and forced marriages. The panel will convene at the Netherlands Mission to the United Nations (at 666 Third Avenue, New York City) on September 19 at 6 p.m.
Child and forced marriage are violations of human rights and significant contributors to poverty, domestic violence, maternal and infant mortality and illiteracy. These marriages, however, are not practices limited to developing countries. Nearly 4,000 children were married in New York from 2000-10, according to data from the New York State Department of Health.
I have been an outspoken advocate of ending child marriage and has authored legislation in New York that would raise the allowable age of marriage, making the state the first in the nation to ban this deplorable practice. It doesn’t make sense to me that we say children under the age of 18 can’t buy cigarettes, get a tattoo, drive a car without restrictions or be bound by a legal contract, but they can be allowed to enter into a life-altering contract of marriage. Even more questionable is that we don’t even give these children, who neither consent nor have the capacity to consent to the marriage, a way out. The law doesn’t allow children under 18 to sue for divorce and they can’t even access domestic violence shelters if they are being abused.
Other panelists include H.R.H. Princess Mabel Van Oranje of the Netherlands, who is the founder and chairperson of Girls Not Brides; Ambassador Isobel Coleman, who is also the U.S. Representative to the U.N. for Management and Reform and Stephanie Sinclair, a photojournalist and Founder/Executive Director of Too Young To Wed. Lakshmi Puri, the U.N. Women’s Deputy Executive Director and the Assistant Secretary General, will moderate the discussion.