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Procedure : 2017/2663(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : B8-0535/2017

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Debates :

PV 03/10/2017 - 10
CRE 03/10/2017 - 10

Votes :

PV 04/10/2017 - 9.12
Explanations of votes

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Texts adopted
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Wednesday, 4 October 2017 - Strasbourg
Ending child marriage

European Parliament resolution of 4 October 2017 on ending child marriage (2017/2663(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in particular Article 16 thereof, and all other United Nations (UN) treaties and instruments concerning human rights,

–  having regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted by the UN General Assembly on 20 November 1989,

–  having regard to its resolution of 27 November 2014 on the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child(1),

–  having regard to Article 16 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,

–  having regard to Article 23 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,

–  having regard to Article 10(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,

–  having regard to Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union,

–  having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and in particular Article 9 thereof,

–  having regard to the Joint Staff Working Document entitled ‘Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Transforming the Lives of Girls and Women through EU External Relations 2016-2020’,

–  having regard to the Council Conclusions of 26 October 2015 on the Gender Action Plan 2016-2020,

–  having regard to the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2015-2019,

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child (2017) – ‘Leave no child behind’,

–  having regard to the European Consensus on Development which underscores the EU’s commitment to mainstreaming human rights and gender equality in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,

–  having regard to Articles 32, 37, and 59(4) of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention),

–  having regard to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Report of 2012 entitled ‘Marrying Too Young – End Child Marriage’,

–  having regard to Rules 128(5) and 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the EU is committed to promoting the rights of the child, and whereas child, early, and forced marriage (CEFM) is a violation of these rights; whereas the EU is committed to comprehensively protecting and promoting the rights of the child in its external policy, in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols and other relevant international standards and treaties;

B.  whereas CEFM has been recognised under international human rights law as a harmful practice and is often associated with serious forms of violence against women and girls, including intimate partner violence;

C.  whereas child, early and forced marriage has a devastating impact on the overall realisation and enjoyment of girls’ and women’s rights, and on girls’ health, including serious risks of complications in pregnancy and HIV infections; whereas it exposes girls to sexual abuse, domestic violence and even honour killing;

D.  whereas reinstating and extending the so-called global gag rule, cutting funds to organisations, such as UNFPA, that provide girl victims of child marriage with family planning and sexual and reproductive health services to help reduce the risk of contracting HIV and complications in early pregnancies, is of serious concern;

E.  whereas CEFM is a fundamental denial of their right to and autonomy over their own bodies and their bodily integrity;

F.  whereas child marriage is a form of forced marriage, since children – given their age – inherently lack the ability to give their full, free and informed consent to their marriage or its timing;

G.  whereas one in every three girls in developing countries is married before turning 18, and one in nine before 15; whereas girls are most at risk, representing 82 % of the children affected;

H.  whereas child brides are under intense social pressure to prove their fertility, which makes them more likely to experience early and frequent pregnancies; whereas complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death in girls aged 15-19 in low- and middle-income countries;

I.  whereas CEFM is linked to high rates of maternal mortality, lower use of family planning and unwanted pregnancies, and usually signals the end of a girl’s education; whereas ending CEFM is firmly rooted in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development under Sustainable Development Goal 5 and Target 5.3, and whereas these marriages have been clearly enunciated as barriers to achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment;

J.  whereas ending CEFM is included as one of the priorities for the EU’s external action in the field of promoting women’s rights and human rights;

K.  whereas over 60 % of child brides in developing countries have had no formal education, which is a form of gender discrimination, and whereas child marriage denies children of school age the right to the education they need for their personal development, their preparation for adulthood and their ability to contribute to their community;

L.  whereas the problem is present not only in third countries, but also in EU Member States;

M.  whereas the EU recently decided to sign the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention);

N.  whereas the Istanbul Convention classifies forced marriage as a type of violence against women, and asks that the act of forcing a child to enter into a marriage and that of luring a child abroad with the purpose of forcing her or him to enter into a marriage be criminalised;

O.  whereas very few statistics are available at national, EU and international level to demonstrate the magnitude of the problem of CEFM in the EU Member States(2);

P.  whereas with the recent migration crisis, new cases of child marriages concluded abroad have emerged, sometimes involving children less than 14 years old;

Q.  whereas children who enter marriage before the age of 18 are more likely to drop out of school or to live in poverty;

R.  whereas situations of armed conflict and instability significantly increase the incidence of CEFM;

1.  Recalls the link between a rights-based approach encompassing all human rights and gender equality, and that the EU remains committed to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and to the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Istanbul Convention, and the EU Plan of Action on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment;

2.  Emphasises that child marriage is a violation of the rights of the child and a form of violence against women and girls; stresses that as such it should be condemned;

3.  Calls for the EU and the Member States to meet the objectives of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda to combat harmful practices more effectively and to hold those responsible to account; calls for the EU and the Member States to work together with UN Women, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNFPA and other partners to bring attention to the issue of CEFM by focusing on women’s empowerment, including through education, economic empowerment and enhanced participation in decision-making, as well as on the protection and promotion of the human rights of all women and girls, including sexual and reproductive health;

4.  Calls for the EU and the Members States to increase access to health services, including sexual and reproductive health and rights services, for women and child brides;

5.  Calls on the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to make use of all the instruments available, by developing policies, programmes and legislation, including political dialogues, human rights dialogues, bilateral and multilateral cooperation, the ‘Trade for All’ strategy, GSP+ and other instruments, to address and curtail the practice of CEFM;

6.  Calls for the EU and the Members States to apply unified legal standards with regard to the procedure for dealing with child marriages, also in view of the ratification of the Istanbul Convention;

7.  Calls for the EU and the Member States to work with law enforcement authorities and judicial systems in third countries, and to provide training and technical assistance to help with the adoption and enforcement of legislation prohibiting early and forced marriages, including a minimum age for marriage;

8.  Stresses the need for special rehabilitation and assistance measures to be created for child brides to enable them to return to education or training and to evade the familial and societal pressures connected with early marriage;

9.  Stresses the need for budgetary allocations for child marriage prevention programmes that aim to create an environment where girls can achieve their full potential, including by means of education, social and economic programmes for out-of-school girls, child protection schemes, girls’ and women’s shelters, legal counselling, and psychological support;

10.  Welcomes projects developed under the Daphne programme, focusing on assistance to victims and prevention of child, early and forced marriage; considers that such projects should be strengthened and receive adequate further funding;

11.  Calls for special attention to be paid to children from disadvantaged communities, and highlights the need to focus on awareness raising, education and economic empowerment as ways to address the problem;

12.  Emphasises that specific procedures must be developed and put in place to ensure the protection of children among refugees and asylum seekers in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; calls on host countries to ensure that refugee children are given full access to education and to promote as far as possible their integration and inclusion in national education systems;

13.  Calls for special procedures to be put in place in refugee and asylum seeker reception centres, in order to identify cases of CEFM and help the victims;

14.  Stresses the need for proper and harmonised monitoring of cases of child marriage in EU Member States, and for the collection of gender disaggregated data, in order to be able to better assess the magnitude of the problem;

15.  Highlights the big discrepancy between officially registered cases and cases of potential victims asking for assistance, indicating that many cases of child marriage might be going unnoticed by authorities; calls for social workers, teachers and other personnel in contact with potential victims to be given special training and manuals on how to identify victims and how to launch the procedures to assist them;

16.  Calls for the strengthening of special projects and campaigns forming part of the EU’s external action targeting CEFM; emphasises that special attention should be paid to awareness raising campaigns and campaigns focusing on the education and empowerment of women and girls in the enlargement countries and in the European Neighbourhood;

17.  Stresses that the EU should support and encourage third countries to ensure that civil society can play a role and ensure independent access for child victims of CEFM and their representatives to justice in a child-friendly way;

18.  Stresses the need to fund, as part of humanitarian assistance, projects focusing on the prevention of gender-based violence and on education in emergencies, in order to ease the pressure on victims of CEFM;

19.  Stresses the need to identify the risk factors for child marriage in humanitarian crises by involving adolescent girls, and to integrate support to married girls in any humanitarian response from the early onset of crises;

20.  Strongly condemns the reinstatement and expansion of the so-called global gag rule and its impact on women’s and girls’ global healthcare and rights; reiterates its call for the EU and its Member States to fill the financing gap left by the US in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights, using both national and EU development funding;

21.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States.

(1) OJ C 289, 9.8.2016, p. 57.

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