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United Nations

Statement on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children

United Nations Item 70: The promotion and protection of the rights of children

7 October 2021

Australia thanks the Special Representative for the Secretary General for her timely report. We ask the Special Representative: what measures can States take to ensure longer term COVID-19 recovery efforts address, prevent, and respond to child, early and forced marriage?

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on children and has resulted in a crisis of children’s rights.

Australia is deeply concerned about the rise of child, early and forced marriage during the pandemic. We are determined to combat this practice, wherever it occurs.

Like Australia, many countries have prohibited or criminalised child, early and forced marriage. Yet these violations of children’s rights continue, driven by entrenched gender inequality, poverty, displacement, and lack of access to formal education.

COVID-19 has exacerbated these drivers. UNESCO estimates that 11 million girls may not return to school. UNICEF has predicted that the pandemic will lead to an additional 10 million child marriages over the next decade.

Australia addresses forced marriage with international partners through bilateral, regional and multilateral engagement, development programming, humanitarian assistance and advocacy.

Improved access to education increases the age of first marriage. We must ensure that all children can access education, and continue to challenge gender inequality.

Responding to child, early and forced marriage requires collective efforts to address the root causes, empower and support victim-survivors, and raise awareness in our communities. Governments, lawmakers, judicial authorities and law enforcement, religious and cultural leaders and institutions, civil society and the private sector all play an important role.

[245 words]

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