Press Release

Ending child marriage: towards a world where girls are free to dream

25 October 2016

HA NOI, October 25, 2016 – Child marriage is a human rights violation. Despite laws against it, the practice remains widespread, in part because of persistent poverty and gender inequality. Addressing child marriage is one of the solutions to contribute to poverty reduction, promoting gender equality and human rights as well as contribute to the sustainability of social and economic development for population and community, according to the National Workshop on Child Marriage, held today in Ha Noi by the United Nation in Viet Nam (UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women) in partnership with the Ministry of Labor Invalids and Social Affairs, the General Office of Population and Family Planning of the Ministry of Health, and the Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs.

Worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children. More than 1 in 3 – or some 250 million – were married before 15. Child marriage threatens girls' lives and health, and it limits their opportunities and future prospects, including their job prospects, and has long-term effects on their families.

Girls who marry before they turn 18 are less likely to remain in school and more likely to experience domestic violence. They are more likely to die due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth than women in their 20s. Their infants are more likely to be stillborn or die in the first month of life. These complications are a leading cause of death among older adolescents in developing countries.

The Government of Viet Nam has many efforts to address child marriage. The Law on Marriage and Family (2014) and the Child Law (2016) prohibit child marriage and activities relating to organizing or supporting child marriage. In 2015, the Prime Minister approved the National Programme to address child marriage, 2015-2025.

Although the Law on Marriage and Family sets the minimum age of marriage for men at 20 and women at 18, the practice persists. Often, at the state and community level, traditional and customary laws still allow girls younger than 18 to marry with the consent of parents and other authorities. Results from the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey shows that the proportion of young women aged 15-19 who are married or in union was 10.3 in 2014. Prevalence rates are higher in the Northern Mountainous area, the Mekong River Delta and Central Highlands. According to the administrative data system of Viet Nam, in some communes, the child marriage rate is over 50 per cent. Among ethnic minority communities, H'Mong people have the highest child marriage rate of 33 per cent, followed by Thai people of 23 per cent.

Child marriage also affects boys but at a lower rate than for girls. In addition, child marriage is strongly associated with lower levels of socio-economic development: provinces with a higher HDI ranking have lower levels of chiId marriage.

Marrying girls under 18 years old is rooted in and exacerbates gender discrimination, encouraging premature and continuous child bearing and giving preference to boys' education. Child marriage is also a strategy for economic survival as families marry off their daughters at an early age to reduce their economic burden.

Addressing the workshop, Madame Truong Thi Mai, Politburo member and Head of the Mass Mobilisation Commission of the Party Central Committee said: "In order to effectively address child marriage in Viet Nam, the Government needs to consult with the research institutes, the United Nations in Viet Nam, international organizations and civil society organizations. We need to focus on changing social norms to promote gender equality, investing and supporting young girls to continue their education, giving them opportunities to study higher, providing vocational training and stable careers. At the same time, we need strengthen behavior change awareness activities, invest in community's socio-economic development, improve community people's material and spiritual lives".

The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, which includes a target on eliminating child marriage, presents us with an historic opportunity to help girls rewrite their futures.

"The United Nations in Viet Nam will work with the Government of Viet Nam to uphold the rights of adolescent girls, so that girls can reach their potential and Viet Nam can attain their social and economic development goals. With support from family, community and nation, and the full realization of their rights, girls can thrive and help bring about the future we all want", said Ms. Astrid Bant, UNFPA Representative in Viet Nam, on behalf of the United Nations in Viet Nam.

Strong partnerships at all levels are required to end child marriage. The scale of the problem requires all of us – the government of Viet Nam, local actors, the global community and the United Nations – to act together. All of us need to join hands to give back to children, their choices, their dreams, their futures and their childhoods.

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For further information, please contact:

Ms. Nguyen Thi Hong Thanh, United Nations Communications, Mobile: 0913093363, Email: tnguyen@unfpa.org