Ending early and forced marriage of children must remain a high priority: it is shocking that more than 700 million girls and women alive today were married as children. While the practice of child marriage has slowly been declining, particularly for girls under 15, continued global action is essential if it is to be eliminated. The UK is leading international efforts in this area. Indeed, UK pressure helped ensure a separate target on ending child marriage was included within the Global Goals.
The UK’s £39 million programme to end child, early and forced marriage is helping thousands of girls take back control and choice over their bodies and their futures. Support for the UN’s ‘Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage’ programme plays an important role. It is working to strengthen legal and policy frameworks, scale up access to services for girls at risk of child marriage, and tackle harmful social norms underlying child marriage. The £39 million programme also supports AmplifyChange, a multi-donor fund working for universal sexual and reproductive health and rights, including for grassroots organisations with the local knowledge and expertise working to address child, early and forced marriage.
Women should be able to live free from violence in all its forms in all settings. The UK is providing the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women with up to £12 million funding over the three years to 2020. The Fund supports organisations across the world to tackle gender-based violence, improve access to services such as legal assistance and healthcare, and strengthen laws and policies that protect women and girls. In 2017, the Fund managed projects in 80 countries and territories. This is expected to benefit 750,000 women.
The UK has always championed freedom of religion or belief for everyone. As a country that has always been a beacon for freedom and tolerance, the UK must not shirk its responsibilities. The Independent Review of Foreign and Commonwealth Office Support for Persecuted Christians, conducted by the Anglican Bishop of Truro, the Right Reverend Philip Mountstephen, has been published. The UK Government is committed to implementing the recommendations from the Bishop of Truro’s Review.
Unfortunately I was not able to attend the Open Doors 2020 World Watch List launch as it conflicted with a number of other diary commitments in what has been a very busy week. However, I assure you that I will follow this issue closely and ensure the Government deal with it seriously.