September 16, 2019
 In 2021-Child Marriage

Country: Colombia
Delegate Name: Palak Rekhani

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) states that “1 of 4 girls in Latin America and the Caribbean marries or enters in early union before 18 years.” Child marriage refers to any formal marriage or informal union between a child under the age of 18 and an adult or another child. It is considered to be a form of forced marriage due to a party not having free or informed consent; therefore, child marriage is a violation of the rights of girls and women. The practice usually has serious repercussions on young girls’ health and future who do not understand the consequences of marriage and are unprepared for its hardships. Premature pregnancy, high rates of maternal and infant mortality, setbacks in their education, increased chance of contracting HIV or AIDS, and domestic violence and abuse are just some of the risks posed. UNICEF reports, “Niger has the highest prevalence of child marriage in the world,” followed by Chad, Bangladesh, and Guinea. The United Nations has made numerous efforts to eliminate child marriage. For example, the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage was established in 2016 to “promote the rights of adolescent girls to avert marriage and pregnancy, and enable them to achieve their aspirations through education and alternative pathways.” The second phase was the Generation Equality campaign, which focuses on issues facing women across multiple generations like education and health care services. Additionally, many resolutions have addressed the topic. A notable one is the United Nations General Assembly’s 3rd Committee’s third resolution on child, early, and forced marriage. It discussed the physical and physiological threats of child marriage on girls and emphasized the rights of married girls through a resolution for the first time. Colombia believes that child marriage is destructive to young girls and society and urges for the United Nations to work towards eradicating it. A recent development occurred when Colombia’s supreme court ruled on August 18, 2021, that minors between 14 and older can legally marry an adult without parental consent if they have the “responsible intention” to form a family.

Columbia still has a long way to go in the elimination of child marriage. According to UNICEF, “23% of girls are married before they turn 18” in Colombia. This could be largely accounted for by its dominant religion, Catholicism, and other social factors like conflict, poverty, and lack of sexual education. Due to these circumstances, “roughly one in five women aged 15-19 were pregnant or had already had a child” which could cause people to marry quickly to avoid birth out of wedlock. The World Bank and International Center for Research on Women reports that “child marriage will cost developing countries trillions of dollars by 2030. In contrast, ending child marriage would have a large positive effect on the educational attainment of girls and their children, contribute to women having fewer children and later in life, and increase women’s expected earnings and household welfare.” In efforts of reducing child marriage, Colombia used the National Development Plan (2018-2022) to test innovative approaches and evaluation techniques.

Colombia believes the United Nations should follow UNICEF’s emphasis on “joint actions and investment with and for adolescent girls.” Colombia recommends recognizing and addressing the major drivers of child marriage: discriminatory social norms against girls, poverty, and lack of comprehensive sexual education. Establishing policies and services that educate parents on the dangers of child marriage, generate regional platforms to strengthen advocacy and intersectional coordination of gender equality, bolster girl empowerment through support networks and transforming harmful gender norms, and enforce laws that establish 18 as the minimum marriage age will encourage such reforms. Additionally, providing regions with resources they lack to achieve these campaigns like economic support, information, and skills. Columbia would support any resolution that strengthens laws and policies to protect women and girls from this harmful practice.