Forum on Marriage and the Rights of Women and Girls

The inter-agency Forum on Marriage and the Rights of Women and Girls was launched in November 1998 and focuses on girls' and women's rights in relation to marriage, especially the issues of early forced marriage, non-consensual sex within marriage, domestic and family violence and FGM.

The idea for the Forum came about following several meetings between Save the Children Fund, Anti-Slavery International (A-SI), CHANGE, the Child Rights Information Network, (CRIN), the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and the Foundation for Women's Health, Research and Development, (FORWARD). The Forum on Marriage and the Rights of Women and Girls is a network of organisations, mainly based in the UK but with international affiliates, sharing a vision of marriage as a sphere in which women and girls have inalienable rights. Our shared commitment to social justice places central importance on the need to bring principles and rights which are accepted in the public sphere into effective operation in the private sphere, particularly in marriage.

Two areas of principal concern to the Forum are:

  • child marriage: the Forum supports the need to eliminate the forced marriage of girls. We draw on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) age threshold to argue that marriage of people aged 18 years or under constitutes 'child marriage.' We advocate prevention of the marriage of minors;
  • violence against women and girls: including forced, coerced and non-consensual activities in all forms are intolerable. Our focus is on violence against women and girls in and related to marriage.

The Forum was established to:

  • share experiences of research and programme work on issues of forced and early marriage, and;
  • identify common agendas for advocacy and policy development at a national, regional and international level.

As a Forum we are committed to:

  • the inalienability of the human rights of women and girls throughout their lives, which cannot be reduced or violated by marriage.
  • the breaking down of barriers, (including legal, social and cultural) that impact adversely on women' and girls' rights within marriage.

The Forum defines marriage existing in all societies as a 'formalised relationship with legal and/or social standing between individual men and women, in which sexual relations are legitimised and as an area for reproduction and child rearing which has state recognition.'

We promote the rights of women and girls to all recognised human rights including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, with a particular focus on sexual and reproductive rights, rights to inheritance and the right to marry or not. Forum members work together and individually, sharing information on models of good practice and carrying out joint advocacy activities for the greater realisation of these rights.

The Forum does not advocate against marriage but for the recognition and support of the human rights of girls and their right to full and free consent to any action which impacts on their lives. We recognise that some girls under the age of eighteen do actively wish to be married and although make all the arrangements, that this is with the full and freely given consent of the girl. We are concerned, however, that sometimes the distinction between coercion and consent may not be clear and wish to stress that the Forum's primary concern is to promote the best interest of the child.

Through The Forum's we aim to build a global network, through which we can gather and share information, in the hope of reaching a better understanding of the legal, social and health implications of the violations of girls' and women's human rights in relation to marriage. Once this has been established we hope to improve approaches to work on this issue and develop common strategies which we can carry out joint advocacy activities to monitor implementation of international conventions on the human rights of women and girls.

Outputs of the Forum on Marriage

The Forum's outputs to date include:

  • A seminar bringing together a range of practitioners, academics, NGO and governments representatives
  • An information pack
  • An article based on the research and programme experience of there members, (published in Oxfam's Gender and Development Journal, November 2003)
  • Publicity of the Forum world-wide through CRIN and the NGO Group on the Rights of the Child, focal point on sexual exploitation
  • A publication entitled 'Early Marriage: Whose Right to Choose?' (2000)
  • A publication entitled 'Early Marriage; Sexual Exploitation and the Human Rights of Girls' (2001)
  • A publication entitled 'Early marriage and Poverty - Exploring links for policy and programme development' (2003)
  • A Technical Consultation and report on Early and Forced Marriage and the Rights of Women and Girls, held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in 2003
  • A publication by International Planned Parenthood Federation and Forum on Marriage and the Rights of Women and Girls entitled 'Ending Child Marriage: A Guide for Global Policy Action' (2006) available to download here.

A number of these publications can be purchased through FORWARD, please click here for more details.

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