A legal expert says that the International Labour Organization should recognize child brides as victims of child labor as they often face abuse and are made to perform domestic work.
Seth Earn, who is a legal advisor for New York-based AIDS-Free World, says that “Child marriage often is a way to replace what otherwise is paid labour.”
While the majority of the 152 million victims of child labor around the world are boys working in agriculture, Earn says child brides should be included in this figure too.
“The child enters into a situation without their consent, if it is coerced from the beginning then everything that goes from there is also without their consent,” he said.
Thomson Reuters Foundation reports that child victims are already counted as victims of modern slavery:
Key anti-slavery groups included 15 million people forced into marriage as part of their joint estimates on victims of modern slavery for the first time last year.
More than a third were aged under 18 when wed, and many are women taken from homes, raped and abused.
Earn told a global conference on child marriage in Kuala Lumpur that the International Labour Organization should recognise young brides as victims of child labour so they were eligible for help.
However, Laura Vidal, a researcher for the charity Good Shepherd in Australia, argued that this recognition by the ILO would be difficult as underage brides may not see themselves as victims of child labor.
The conference in Kuala Lumpur was hosted by advocacy group Girls Not Brides, which campaigns to end child marriage. An estimated 650 million women and girls globally are thought to be affected by child marriage.