Colombo, Oct 12 (NIA) – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) on Wednesday, said that while Sri Lanka has made substantial progress to address child marriages and teenage pregnancies, some Sri Lankan girls are still being deprived of a carefree childhood and the opportunity to realize their full potential as a result of this issue.
In a letter presented to Sri Lanka’s Minister of Women and Child Affairs, Chandrani Bandara, on the occasion of the International Day of the Girl Child, the UN agencies called on the government to continue its actions to address this vital issue.
“While we realize that Sri Lanka has made huge progress in addressing child marriage and teenage pregnancy, too many Sri Lankan girls are still being deprived of a carefree childhood and the opportunity to realize their full potential,” the letter said.
According to UNICEF’s Child Marriage Baseline Estimate 2015, there are over 20,780 girls aged between 12 to 17 years in Sri Lanka who are married or in cohabiting relationships.
Also, according to the Family Health Bureau, 5.3 per cent of all registered pregnancies are teenage pregnancies.
In Sri Lanka, current socio-cultural practices and legal, economic and social security-related factors, are the leading causes of child marriage and teenage pregnancies.
Attending the joint letter presentation, Paula Bulancea, UNICEF Representative, in Sri Lanka said that child marriage not only violates the human rights of girls, it has a real negative effect on their futures, impacting their education, their health and the economic and social prospects of themselves, their children and their communities.
“In the week of International Day of the Girl Child, we are acknowledging the real progress Sri Lanka has made, but also asking the government to continue this strong work, for the benefit of all Sri Lankan girls”
Speaking at the joint letter presentation, Alain Sibenaler, UNFPA Representative in Sri Lanka said that with continued action by the government, and with the support of the United Nations, its partners and civil society here in Sri Lanka, they could achieve a key objective of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is to ‘eliminate all harmful practices such as child, early and forced marriage’, and ultimately a Sri Lanka where all girls can have a childhood free from discrimination and violence, and a future of opportunity and choice.
The joint letter was signed by over 50 UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, leading medical practitioners, academics and partners, highlighting the issues of child marriage and teenage pregnancy in Sri Lanka.