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Towards an EU external strategy against early and forced marriages

5 July 2018
Around the world, every 7 seconds a girl under 15 is married. On 4th July 2018, in plenary session, the European Parliament voted on a new own-initiative report*, “Towards an EU external strategy against early and forced marriages”, prepared by MEP Charles Goerens from the Committee on Foreign Affairs. The report received wide support, as 556 MEPs voted in favour, with only 61 abstaining and 63 against.

The European Parliament is asking the European Commission to keep ending child, early and forced marriage as a priority for development cooperation, and to reinforce its work by developing a dedicated strategy together with partners. This would complement clear commitments to end this harmful practice which are already formulated in several EU policy documents: the European Consensus for Development, the Gender Action Plan (GAP II), the EU Guidelines on the Rights of the Child and the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy.

The vote comes nearly a month after the European Development Days (EDDs), during which Plan International’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Rotimy Djossaya, participated in a panel entitled “Defining the building blocks for an EU strategy to end child marriage”. During his intervention, he highlighted the importance of working with local communities and civil society to understand the root causes of the issue and develop effective strategies. He also called for a multi-sectoral, comprehensive approach, including the education, child protection, and justice systems. Plan International welcomes the fact that the European Parliament report underlines the negative role of gender norms, gender inequality and discrimination in child, early and forced marraige, as well as the necessity to engage with local communities. In addition, the report touches upon the important role of education when it comes to securing equal opportunities.

During the discussion at the EDDs, several panelists, including Mr. Djossaya, Mabel van Oranje, Chair of Girls Not Brides, and MEP Linda McAvan, Chair of the Parliamentary Committee for Development (DEVE), insisted on the importance of allocating appropriate funding to implement EU policies and effectively address child, early and forced marriage. In this respect, we are particularly pleased that the report contains specific language to support “increased funding from the EU and its Member States via development aid mechanisms which promote gender equality and education, in order to improve access to education for girls and women and strengthen opportunities for them to participate in community development and in economic and political leadership, with a view to addressing the causes of child, early and forced marriage” (paragraph 2).

With the negotiations on the next 7-year EU budget (2021-2027) ongoing, Plan International EU Office is keen on seeing such an approach - where the EU commits to #investingirls with a gender-proofed, gender transformative budget. It is only by investing in girls that the EU will be able to turn its policies into practice and take effective action on the issues that affect girls and young women everywhere.

* Own-initiative reports express the Parliament’s position on certain topics and are useful tools to shape the agenda and open the way for new legislation or European Commission proposals.