Girls build lives; girls are not just brides.

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Love is a fundamental part of human social and emotional expression that everyone deserves. The ability to share life in union with your significant other by marriage should be a universal opportunity for all people. However, no one should be forced to marry when underaged and unwilling. Yet, this is the reality for the 12 million girls under 18 who are bound into child marriage every year.

Child marriage, any formal or informal marital union of those younger than 18, infringes the human rights of girls in across the globe - particularly in South Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. Many of these young girls do not agree with being married yet are wedded by their family for physical or financial security, as a traditional practice, or due to restricting values on female sexuality and expression. However, this violates article 16 from the UN Declaration of Human Rights - the right to a consensual marriage, yet laws regarding child marriage are not being enforced in these areas. In 2017, 5% of girls were married by the age of 15 and 23% by the age of 18. The heads of states of India, Bangladesh and Brazil, where child marriage is most pressing, must be held accountable. This petition will be able to raise awareness for this issue that is affecting millions of girls yearly.

Our petition targets the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, and the President of Bangladesh, Abdul Hamid. In Bangladesh, 59% of women aged 20-24 were married before they were 18. India has the highest absolute numbers of child marriage in the world, with 15,509,000 women who were married as girls younger than 18. Furthermore, there is still a disturbing increase in the marriage of 15 to 18-year-old girls. Whilst India's head of state has publicly commended girls for standing up against child marriage, this issue remains prevalent for girls in rural areas - where 48% of these marriages occur.  Nevertheless, child marriage in India has declined overall from 47% to 27% of marriages in 2006 and 2016 respectively.

Therefore, our petition particularly aims to increase the awareness of child marriage in Latin America and the Caribbean. With 1 in 4 Latin girls being married before their 18th birthday, these areas uniquely have no perceivable decline in child marriage in the last 30 years. These regions have been overlooked despite having some of the highest rates of child marriage. The Dominican Republic and Brazil both have 36% prevalence rates, and states such as Nicaragua maintain a rate of 41%.

Our primary target, the President of Brazil, Michael Temer, remains absent in the fight against these human rights abuses. Brazil currently lacks the adequate legal restrictions, law enforcement and the will to eradicate its abhorrent child marriage.

Victims of child marriage are disempowered, disconnected and disadvantaged. These girls bear the responsibility of grown adults as children. Many are not willing to marry, and none are emotionally or physically ready to cope with marriage from a young age. Child marriage directly restricts girls from their vital education as they are expected to leave school and become the caretaker of a new family. Child marriage encourages the most prominent cause of death in 15-19-year-old girls - the health effects of juvenile pregnancy and childbirth. Child marriage increases the chances for girls under 15 to suffer domestic abuse by 50%. Child marriage is an immoral practice that is incompatible with a society that encourages and empowers women. Sign our petition for these three key actors to end their compliance with this issue and commit to eradicating child marriage once and for all. Let these girls build their lives: no girl deserves to be a child bride.



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