Saudi Arabia: UNICEF chief voices concern over eight-year old girl’s marriage

13 April 2009

The head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today expressed her deep concern over reports that a Saudi Arabian court has ruled that the marriage of an eight-year-old girl is legally binding.

“Irrespective of circumstances or the legal framework, the marriage of a child is a violation of that child’s rights,” UNICEF Executive Director Anne M. Veneman stressed in a statement.

UNICEF joins many in voicing concern that child marriage contravenes accepted international standards of human rights,” she added.

She noted that the right to free and full consent to marriage is recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but that “consent cannot be free and full when either party to a marriage is too young to make an informed decision.”

Ms. Veneman warned that marriage at too young an age could have long-term harmful effects on a child’s emotional, physical and psychological welfare.

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