The Reality of Child "Marriage"

Consider the ways in which child "marriage" meets the criteria of child labour, including the worst forms of child labour, and hazardous work:

Child “marriage” is not merely a harmful traditional practice:  it is a crime, it is child labour in its worst form, and it is a complete violation of a girl’s human rights.  It is illegal because it puts girls in jeopardy, violates their rights as children, and distorts the rest of their lives. Its victims are raped repeatedly and subjected to high-risk pregnancies, life-threatening childbirth complications and heightened exposure to sexually transmitted infections such as HIV. They are denied schooling, liberty, and recreation; deprived of their potential and free will; robbed of their rightful homes; and inducted early into lives of subservient, unpaid work.

Photo: UN Photo / Staton Winter

Photo: UN Photo / Staton Winter

To call this crime “marriage” is to give it unwarranted legitimacy.  It conveys the message that this is a regular rite of passage that is just happening too soon for some girls, rather than an offense that completely and permanently unravels girls’ lives.  Calling it “child labour” will correctly classify it as an intolerable and inhumane labour violation faced by millions of girls around the world.

The ILO states that it is a “priority to eliminate without delay the worst forms of child labour as defined by Article 3 of the ILO Convention No. 182".  Reading through Article 3 of Convention No. 182 makes it clear: child marriage is child labour, and it is time for the ILO to recognize this fact.

Want to know more about how child labour is defined? Read our report: "Child Marriage is Child Labour" and then click below to read about the ILO's various responses.