KABUL (TIP): UN agencies in Afghanistan on Thursday called for protecting Afghan girls against child marriage, even as the tradition remains rampant in the country. More than 46 percent of Afghan women are married before age 18, and over 15 percent before age 15, Xinhua quoted the “Afghanistan Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2010-11” as saying.

In December 2011, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to declare on October 11 as the “International Day of the Girl Child” to recognise girls’ rights and the challenges they face around the world.

This year marked the first anniversary of the day with the theme of “my life, my right, end child marriage”. In response to widespread concerns about violence against women, the Afghan government enacted the ‘Elimination of Violence Against Women’ (EVAW) law in August 2009. However, Afghan laws set 16 as the minimum age of marriage for a girl and 18 for a boy.

‘The EVAW law criminates the practice of child marriage, recognising that a child under the legal age of marriage is not capable of giving her valid consent to enter into marriage,’ Jan Kubis, the top UN envoy in Afghanistan, was quoted as saying. Laurent Zessler, Afghanistan representative for the UN Population Fund, said: ‘Child marriage is a health issue as well as a human rights violation. Girls aged 10-14 are five times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than women aged 20-24.’ ‘Despite a lot of progress during the past 10 years, Afghanistan’s maternal mortality rate is still 327 deaths per 100,000 live births,’ she said.

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