Child Marriage in South Asia

Child Marriage in South Asia

Child marriage is a human rights crisis occurring on an alarming scale in South Asia. South Asia accounts for almost half of all child marriages that occur globally. Child marriage does not constitute a single rights violation; rather, every instance of it triggers a continuum of violations that continues throughout a girl’s life.

Governments in South Asia have an absolute legal obligation to eliminate child marriage. The extensive repercussions of child marriage violate the international and constitutional obligations of states to protect children's rights. The persistence of child marriage in South Asia indicates the widespread failure of governments to address one of the most critical human rights issues facing women and girls in the region.

This briefing paper primarily focuses on violations of women’s and girls’ reproductive rights and right to be free from sexual violence arising from child marriage in six South Asian countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. This publication is intended to serve as a resource for those interested in using international and constitutional legal norms to establish government accountability for child marriage through human rights advocacy and litigation. It is also meant to serve as a critical resource for government officials.

The most important finding identified in this briefing paper is that, by failing to enact and enforce laws that clearly and consistently prohibit child marriage, governments in the region are complicit in the grave violations of human and constitutional rights experienced by married girls. These governments are responsible for perpetuating legal and practical barriers that make girls vulnerable to child marriage, and deny effective legal remedies to those trapped in such marriages.

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