U.N., NCLW Launch Campaign to End Child Marriage

The United Nations System in Lebanon and the National Commission for Lebanese Women (NCLW) on Sunday launched a joint campaign aimed at raising awareness on the consequences and implications of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and gender inequality in Lebanon.

The campaign is timed to coincide with the beginning of the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (25 November-10 December).

It focuses specifically on advocating for ending child marriage in Lebanon, considered a form of GBV, through the adoption of a law to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18 years, based on the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) that defines a child as “every human being below the age of 18 years”.

The campaign aims at shedding light on how child marriage as a form of GBV increases girls’ vulnerability and risks to domestic violence including physical, sexual and psychological abuse.

Entitled Bakirr 3laya, the campaign will run from 25 November to 10 December on social media through the #Bakirr3laya hashtag. It will also feature a TV spot on local TV channels and a radio spot on national stations to raise awareness on the negative consequences of child marriage, mostly on women and girls, and advocate for passing a law setting the marriage age at 18. The campaign messages will also be displayed on billboards and LED screens in Beirut and several areas across Lebanon.

During the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, the Lebanese Presidential Palace, NCLW headquarters building and the iconic Baalbek Temple in eastern Lebanon will be lit up in orange as part of the 'Orange the World initiative’, signaling “a strong message against violence against women and specifically child marriage,” the U.N. and NCLW said in a statement.

On the occasion, the Acting U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Pernille Dahler Kardel said: “I encourage Lebanese legislators to enact and uphold laws that would eliminate child marriage in Lebanon. This would be an important step towards ending this harmful practice, protecting the rights of children and ensuring the overall wellbeing of society. Addressing the causes that drive such a practice, such as poverty, economic difficulties or barriers to education, are also essential for longer term solutions that open up opportunities and access to justice for all.”

For Claudine Aoun Roukoz, NCLW president, “The continued acceptance of Child Marriage and the fact that the law does not enforce a minimum age for marriage is further evidence of failure of legislation to keep up with changes in the status of women and the roles they actually play in society.”

Child marriage affects Lebanese girls but also Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. According to a report issued by the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 2016, six percent of Lebanese women aged 20 to 24 were married by the age of 18. A study conducted by the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) in 2016 and covering some 2,400 refugee women and girls living in Western Bekaa found that more than a third of those surveyed between the ages of 20 and 24 had been married before reaching age 18.

“Around 650 million girls and women around the world were married in childhood, and unless progress is accelerated by 2030, an additional 150 million girls could become brides during this time,” the statement said.

“Child marriage prevents children and adolescents from accessing their rights to safety, health, decision making, education, and right to play. Child marriage compromises a girl’s development by resulting in early pregnancy and social isolation, interrupting her schooling, limiting her opportunities for career and vocational advancement and placing her at increased risk of domestic violence. Child marriage also affects boys, but to a lesser degree than girls,” the statement added.

According to the statement, repealing child marriage is critical to achieving target 5.1 of the Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG5) on ending all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign originating from the first Women's Global Leadership Institute in 1991. It serves as a time to raise awareness and increase momentum toward ending violence against women and girls worldwide.

The United Nations Secretary General, through the UNiTE to End Violence against Women Campaign, supports the 16 Days of Activism under the 2018 overarching theme “Orange the World: #HearMeToo”.

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