Early marriage and child spouses


Birth, marriage and death are the standard trio of key events in most people’s lives. But only one – marriage – is a matter of choice. The right to exercise that choice was recognized as a principle of law even in Roman times and has long been estab- lished in international human rights instru-ments. Yet many girls, and a smaller num- ber of boys, enter marriage without any chance of exercising their right to choose. Some are forced into marriage at a very early age. Others are simply too young to make an informed decision about their marriage partner or about the implications of marriage itself. They may have given what passes for ‘consent’ in the eyes of custom or the law, but in reality, consent to their binding union has been made by others on their behalf.

Innocent Digest No.7, March 2001. www.unicef.org

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)



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  3 UN Plaza, New York, NY 10017, USA pubdoc@unicef.org.

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