October 11 was the International Day of the Girl Child. This year’s theme was “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: A Global Data Movement” which means that what counts for girls is to be counted.
United Nations General Assembly voted to pass the resolution 66/170 on December 19, 2011 adopting October 11, 2012 as the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child.
Girl child is specially focused in Sustainable Development Goals.
“Every girl has the right to a safe and successful transition into adulthood and the right to embrace the opportunities that the future holds for her. Now is the time to fully exploit the power of data as one of the most critical tools for development and for protecting and promoting adolescent girls’ rights,” said United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, issuing a statement on the International Day of the Girl Child.
The issue of child marriage and teenage pregnancy, which threaten the health, lives and future prospects of girls across Sri Lanka must be specially focused on this International Day of Girl Child.
Sri Lanka has made huge progress in addressing child marriage and teenage pregnancy. But many Sri Lankan girls are still deprived of a carefree childhood and the opportunity to realize their full potential because of child marriages and teenage pregnancies.
According to official statistics (2015) there are over 20,780 girls aged between 12 to 17 years in Sri Lanka who are married or in cohabiting relationships. According to the Family Health Bureau, 5.3% of all registered pregnancies are teenage pregnancies.
Child marriage is definitely a grave violation of human rights. The issue direclty impact the education of the girls negatively.
Further, the young girls lack the power of decision making in sexual and reproductive matters. In most cases, they are undereducated on sexual and reproductive health and lack knowledge on family planning.
As a result, they are at a high risk of maternal and reproductive health problems which include complications in pregnancy or childbirth and other long term health challenges.
In 2014, according to the maternal mortality report of the Ministry of Health, out of the 112 maternal deaths occurred in the year, 4% are less than 20 years of age.
Young girls who are either married or in cohabiting relationships are also more likely to experience domestic violence, including grave sexual abuse.
Some cultural practices of Sri Lanka contribute to the high prevalence of child marriage and teenage pregnancy.
In this context, it is highly important that the national legal framework is fully brought in line with the requirements of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) regarding the age of marriage, to address this grave issue. Also, the laws must be fully enforced to ensure the rights of girls across the nation.
(This article was originally published in www.kiyanna.lk. That site is now changed to www.ivoice.lk owned by SDJF and supported by UNFPA)