LONDON, July 1, 2011 – Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender young people must be protected from forced marriage, a charity has warned ahead of London’s Pride parade tomorrow.
A new report from Plan UK reveals that one girl is married off every three-and-a-half seconds worldwide – and young men and boys are also at risk.
The Breaking Vows (pdf file) study cautions that in the UK, some families of LGBT young people try to force them into marriage because of fears about their sexuality.
“All young people have the right to decide when and who to marry,“ says Rowan Harvey, policy and advocacy officer for Plan UK.
“Along with corrective rape, forced marriage as a strategy for altering a young person’s sexual orientation is a gross violation of their rights.”
The UK government’s Forced Marriage Unit has reported a growing number of calls from young LGBT people.
Overall, the centre received more than 1,700 requests for help last year.
“The problem is dramatically under-reported and affects young people across the globe, in developed and developing countries,” explains Ms Harvey.
UK activist Jasvinder Sanghera is backing Plan’s Because I Am A Girl campaign and the charity’s petition to end forced marriage – Take The Vow.
She was disowned by her family at 16 for refusing to wed a man she had never met – and received death threats after setting up the UK’s first forced marriage helpline.
“I’m a survivor of forced marriage and it is a horrific form of abuse,” says Ms Sanghera.
“It’s extremely important that we tackle early and forced marriage, whether it happens here or in Africa, Asia, or other parts of the world.”
In the world’s poorest countries, one in seven girls, under the age of 15, will become child brides.
Girls aged 10-14 are five times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth, than women aged 20-24.
Any girl forced to marry early in these regions is less likely to finish her education.
“What links young men and women coerced into wedlock in the UK, and around the world, is the denial of choices,” Marie Staunton, CEO of Plan UK, told UK Gay News.
“We believe the human rights of young people should always be upheld, whether they are in the UK or the developing world.”
Plan is calling on the UK government to:
? Push early and forced marriage up the international agenda;
? Implement a cross-government action plan to ensure coordinated work;
? Prioritise overseas aid work that encourages families and communities to keep children in education, not force them into education;
? Ensure donors invest in support services for young people wanting to escape early marriage.
“The UK Government should play a leading role on ending forced marriage, whatever the motivation behind it,” says Ms Harvey.
“It has a duty to ensure that governments and communities understand that girls and boys should be in education, not in wedlock, and that they must act accordingly.”
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