Table 11: Children’s Health and Freedom from Harmful Traditional Practices

Examples of Human Rights Violations

  • State takes limited measures to prevent harmful traditional practices that are prejudicial to the health and well-being of children.
  • Female genital mutilation of young girls, and impunity for perpetrators.
  • Early and forced marriages of children.
  • Discrimination and abandonment of twins out of traditional belief that they are bad luck.
Human Rights Standards Treaty Body Interpretation
CRC 24(3): States Parties shall take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children. CRC Committee: Expressing serious concern at the high prevalence of girls subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) in Egypt and Burkina Faso, and particularly concerned at impunity for perpetrators. CRC/C/EGY/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2011), para. 68; CRC/C/BFA/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2010), para. 58.

CRC Committee: Recommending that Bulgaria closely collaborate with the minority communities and their respective leaders to elaborate effective measures to abolish traditional practices prejudicial to the health and well-being of children, such as early marriage. CRC/C/SR.1318 (CRC, 2008), para. 46.

CRC Committee: Recommending that Syria prohibit early and forced marriages and repeal the Personal Status Code provisions allowing the judge to lower the age of marriage of boys to 15 years and of girls to 13 years. CRC/C/SYR/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2012), para. 68.

CRC Committee: Noting with deep concern that in Madagascar there is continuing prevalence of harmful practices, including discrimination and abandonment of twins and forced marriage (moletry). CRC/C/MDG/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2012), para. 53.

CEDAW 16(2): The betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage and to make the registration of marriages in an official registry compulsory. CEDAW Committee, General Recommendation No. 19: In some States there are traditional practices perpetuated by culture and tradition that are harmful to the health of women and children. These practices include dietary restrictions for pregnant women, preference for male children and female circumcision or genital mutilation.” (11th Session, 1992), para. 19, 20.

CEDAW Committee: Calling on states to undertake awareness-raising measures throughout country on negative effects of early marriage on women’s enjoyment of their human rights, especially rights to health and education. Gambia A/60/38(SUPP) (CEDAW, 2005), Nepal A/59/38(SUPP) (CEDAW, 2004), Guatemala A/57/38(SUPP) (CEDAW, 2002), Algeria CEDAW/C/DZA/CO/3-4 (CEDAW, 2012).

CEDAW Committee: Recommending that Yemen take urgent legislative measures to raise the minimum age of marriage for girls, stipulate that child marriages have no legal effects, and enforce the requirement to register all marriages in order to monitor their legality and the strict prohibition of early marriages. CEDAW/C/YEM/CO/6 (CEDAW, 2009).

Human Rights Standards Treaty Body Interpretation
ICESCR 10: The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize that: (1) . . . Marriage must be entered into with the free consent of the intending spouses.(3) Special measures of protection and assistance should be taken on behalf of all children and young persons without any discrimination for reasons of parentage or other conditions. Children and young persons should be protected from economic and social exploitation

ICESCR 12(1): The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

CESCR General Comment 14(22): There is a need to adopt effective and appropriate measures to abolish harmful traditional practices affecting the health of children, particularly girls, including early marriage, female genital mutilation, preferential feeding and care of male children.

CESCR: Expressing continued concern about the persistence of harmful traditional practices in Nepal that violate the rights of women and girls as deuki (dedicating girls to a god or goddess), badi (widespread practice of prostitution among the Badi caste), chaupadi (isolating a woman during menstruation because she is considered to be impure), marrying child brides, and witchcraft. E/C.12/NPL/CO/2 (CESCR, 2008).

CESCR: Expressing concern that child marriages still occur in Turkmenistan. E/C.12/TKM/CO/1 (CESCR, 2011).

CESCR: Recommending that Kenya adopt legislation criminalizing all female genital mutilation of adult women; continue promoting alternative rite of passage ceremonies; and combat traditional beliefs about the usefulness of female genital mutilation for the promotion of marriage prospects of girls. E/C.12/KEN/CO/1 (CESCR, 2008).

Other Interpretations 

SR Violence against Women: Recommending that Afghanistan ensure that the criminal law clearly establishes that those involved in organization of child and forced marriages commit a crime and must be prosecuted and punished. E/CN.4/2006/61/Add.5 (SR Violence against Women, 2006).

SR Violence against Women: Recommending that Saudi Arabia adopt guidelines for government agencies and religious leaders aimed at preventing and ending child and forced marriage; standardize the age of majority in the Kingdom at 18 in accordance with CRC, and ensure its application to the legal age of marriage. A/HRC/11/6/Add.3 (SR Violence against Women, 2009).

SR Freedom of Expression: Urging Kyrgyzstan to amend legislation to set a uniform minimum legal age for marriage at 18 for both women and men, in line with international standards. A/HRC/14/22/Add.2 (SR Freedom of Expression, 2010).