C'wealth tackles forced marriages

C'wealth tackles forced marriages

In a communique pitched towards overhauling the 54-nation bloc to make it more relevant, the grouping said it would “promote the implementation of measures to tackle early and forced marriage.”

The group of mostly former British colonies also said it would move to implement international instruments and agreements on women’s rights.

Activists have said the forced marriage of young girls takes place on a “shocking scale” in Commonwealth countries, trapping children in a cycle of poverty, illiteracy and ill health and violating their basic rights.

Plan International Australia, one of the world’s largest children’s development organisations, welcomed the Commonwealth’s decision, which it said would significantly boost efforts to protect millions of girls.

“The decision to focus on ending early and forced marriage sends a strong signal to government authorities and communities across the Commonwealth that the early marriage of girls — often against their will and best interests — is no longer a practice to be tolerated,” the group’s Ian Wishart said.

Commonwealth nations account for 12 of the worst 20 global offenders on forced marriage with customary law in some Pacific countries, such as Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, allowing girls to be married at 12 or 13.

In Bangladesh 32 per cent of women were married before they were 15, while Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Mozambique, Malawi and India also had high rates of early marriage.
Next summit in Lanka

The Commonwealth announced that Sri Lanka would host its next summit in 2013, ending speculation that the island nation could be stripped of the rights over concerns of war crime allegations during the final push to defeat the LTTE in 2009. In a communique, the leaders reiterated their decision to hold the next meeting in Sri Lanka. “Finally, to reaffirm their decisions to meet next in Sri Lanka in 2013 and thereafter in Mauritius in 2015,” it said.

 Kamalesh Sharma reappointed

Kamalesh Sharma, a former Indian diplomat, has been reappointed for another four-year term as secretary general of the Commonwealth. His name was proposed by India and his candidature was seconded by Pakistan. The leaders then took a consensual decision to reappoint him.

Sharma was first appointed to the post by the CHOGM in Kampala, Uganda, in November 2007. Sharma, who previously served as India’s High Commissioner to Britain, said he was “deeply appreciative” of the decision.

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