The 16 Days of Activism against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) is an annual international campaign held by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and that takes place in many corners of the world. The campaign begins on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and concludes on December 10, the Human Rights Day.
On Friday, December 7, 2018, the General Smart Room at PU was packed with a number of students who attended a session of the 16 Days of Activism on the UNHCR 2018 Global Theme, titled “Ending Gender Based Violence in the World of Work.”
Representatives from the UNHCR acknowledged that, internationally speaking, 1 in 3 women have experienced sexual harassment, 1 in 5 immigrant women have experienced violence, and around 700 million women have been married off before the age of 18. With this taken into account, UNHCR in Lebanon has chosen the theme of ending and preventing child marriages in its campaign titled “Bakirr 3laya” (“It’s Too Early for Her”) for the 16 Days of Activism 2018. The campaign brings into the spotlight that child marriages increase girls’ susceptibility to domestic violence heightens their risk of suffering physical, sexual, and psychological abuse.
During the session, the UNHCR team explained that child marriage is a violation of human rights. It exposes children to all sorts of violence and traps them in a cycle of unprepared adulthood. Above all, it goes against a person’s will. Children under the age of 18 do not have the full capacity to be held responsible for the decisions they take that are, most often than not, encouraged or forced by their parents. Children lack the maturity to decide upon their future partner and, therefore, early marriage undermines the dignity and liberty of human beings.
Child marriage is a crime against children, to say the least. It deprives them of autonomy over their bodies, childhood, and education. The aftermath is a larger tragedy. Children are robbed of their childhood rights and are exposed to violence and forced sexual relationships. Moreover, child marriage runs a higher risk of sexually transmitted diseases and early pregnancies.
According to UNHCR, SGBV should be prevented and protection must ensure equal access to every human to enjoy their rights in accordance with governmental bodies. The UNHCR’s global campaign “Bakirr 3laya” adopted in Lebanon reinforces the campaign’s commitment to make the world a safer place that is free of violence while reaching out to the underprivileged and marginalized.
- Reem Makki
Communication and Social Media Student