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Human Rights Council Holds Full Day Meeting on the Rights of the Child
March 12, 2015

Items 2 and 3 Statement on Full Day Meeting on the Rights of the Child

Delivered by Meredith A. Johnston

28th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

March 12, 2015 –  Geneva

 Thank you Mr. President.  The United States is pleased to participate in this full day meeting on the rights of the child, and welcomes the High Commissioner’s report.

We agree that policy and legislative commitments to promote the well-being of children must be supported with financial resources.  Last week, the White House announced a U.S. government-wide effort called Let Girls Learn that will build on the investments made and successes achieved in global primary school education.  Let Girls Learn will expand these investments to help adolescent girls worldwide attend and complete school.

The High Commissioner’s report notes that investment in education is important for many reasons, including because it can help to reduce the prevalence of child, early, and forced marriage, or CEFM.  Eliminating CEFM is a priority of the United States government.  CEFM is deeply rooted in discrimination and also contributes to gender inequality.  It has harmful, long-term consequences for women and, girls, and for the families they may eventually start.  It hurts economies, as CEFM hinders the development of a nation’s talent.  It can lead to violence, and it deprives people of their ability to make fundamental life choices such as choosing their own partner and whether and when to have children.

The United States would like to thank Sierra Leone, and core sponsors Argentina, Canada, Ethiopia, Finland, Honduras, Italy, Maldives, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, and Uruguay, for their leadership in advancing this issue for the first time at the Human Rights Council in September 2013.  We thank Zambia and Canada for their efforts on the CEFM resolution this past fall at the UN General Assembly, and look forward to working with Sierra Leone and Italy when they introduce a resolution in the June session of the Human Rights Council.  We encourage countries where the prevalence of CEFM is high to join the core group.  Beyond that, we urge these countries to act boldly to end the practice within their own borders.

We support a substantive resolution in June that comprehensively addresses the myriad concerns associated with CEFM, with the goal of preventing it and mitigating the negative impacts for those who are already married.  This is a complex problem which requires a comprehensive solution.  The solution includes improving access to education, reforming discriminatory laws, including gender discrimination in nationality laws …

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and ensuring births and marriages are registered.  Improving access to sexual and reproductive health care, implementing laws that prohibit harmful practices, upholding reproductive rights, improving access to justice, and changing mindsets and behaviors all are also critical.

We look forward to partnering with States in this Council and in other fora to work to ensure that every marriage begins with free and fully informed consent.