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Marriage highlights the challenge

5 July, 2024

Sierra Leone recently achieved a significant milestone in the fight for human rights: a bill criminalising child marriage. Offenders now face jail terms of up to 15 years or substantial fines. Another recent victory for marriage equality has been Thailand becoming the first South-East Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage. After years of campaigning and failed attempts, Thailand now stands as the 38th country in the world to recognize same-sex marriage.

Unfortunately, other countries still grapple with high rates of child marriage. And shockingly, four US states—California, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Mississippi—have no minimum marriage age. At the current rate, eradicating this harmful practice will take another 300 years according to a 2023 UNICEF report.

The complexity of gender issues such as child marriage was a topic of discussion at the Gates Foundation Gender Norms Learning Agenda workshop in Nairobi last week. Andrew, representing Good Business, engaged with experts from diverse sectors to explore interventions that can catalyse change across society. Tailoring communication strategies to specific communities and addressing root causes emerged as key approaches. Some communities view child marriage as a protective measure for girls, making them more receptive to education and health-focused messaging than to the discourse on human rights violations.

This global reality serves as a stark reminder that we still have a long way to go in dismantling harmful practices and legalising equality. Businesses can also play a role in bringing this about. One initiative that we love is RISE, which supports collaborative industry action to advance gender equality in global garment, footwear and home textiles supply chains.

By Alice Railton

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