Earlier this year, Afghanistan took an unprecedented policy step in the battle against the ‘child bride’ custom by launching the National Action Plan to Eliminate Early and Child Marriage. Activists are hopeful the plan will become more than a piece of paper, despite clear challenges ahead and the government’s poor record for implementation.

Today, according to Girls Not Brides, one in three girls in the developing world are married before they turn 18. This practice is particularly an issue in Afghanistan, where the child marriage rate was 33% in 2016. Although rights groups claim that any marriage before 18 is a violation of human rights, it is still taking place today in Afghanistan, where the legal age of marriage for girls is set at 16 by the Afghan Civil Code.

Those unions typically take place in rural areas in Afghanistan, rather than in the big cities such as Kabul.

The National Plan was developed by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Ministry of Information and Culture, and approved in April.

The First Lady of Afghanistan, Rula Ghani, has been one of the National Plan’s strongest supporters:

“I urge all Afghan families to avoid child and forced marriages. Your girls face a huge risk when they get married at a young age. Early marriage robs them from their childhood and future opportunities.”

Eliminating child marriage and promoting education is one of 17 Sustainable Development Goals launched by the United Nations goals is to eliminate child marriage and promote education.

National Action Plans have a weak record in Afghanistan in terms of enforcement. Neither the 2007 National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan, nor the 2009 Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, nor the plan to enforce the pro-women United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 can be considered successes.

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