Girls around the world pay the price for broken pledges


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Twenty-five years ago, the Convention on the Rights of the Child pledged signatories to work towards a world in which all children could realise their potential. No treaty is more widely or systematically violated.

Teenage girls pay the price. The ODI report on Uganda captures the human face of rights violation. Young girls are forced, through poverty, into the world of exploitative older men; the government appears to turn a blind eye.

Uganda's story is a microcosm of a global tragedy. Forced marriage is part of that tragedy. Every year, around 1.5 million young girls marry before the age of 15 – typically to men more than twice their age. These girls account for many of the 70,000 teenagers who die each year in pregnancy or childbirth.

In northern Nigeria, young girls are three times more likely to marry before 15 than to complete primary school. In India, 58 per cent of girls marry before the legal age of 18. Early marriage is invariably a prelude to school drop-out.

Just in case you're thinking this is a poor country problem, take a look at the Rochdale sex-trafficking scandal, which showed criminal ineptitude on the part of the authorities who saw the victims not as vulnerable children, but as "slags".

It is time for the UN and governments to get serious about enforcing a convention that delivers far too little.

Kevin Watkins is executive director of the ODI