Ms BAYR (Austria) – Forced marriage, especially if it enslaves young girls, is equal to theft. Girls are deprived of their sexual and reproductive rights, and of their rights to be a child, to attend school, to play and to take decisions about their bodies, fertility, integrity, maternity and lives. I would go further and say that for these girls, marriage is equivalent to murder – the murder of their chances and their futures.
As the Council of Europe was established to protect human rights, and to halt slavery, violence and sexual assault, we have a clear obligation to stop forced marriage in Europe and elsewhere. We have to guarantee physical integrity, physical and mental health, sexual and reproductive health and rights, education, self-determination, freedom and autonomy for everyone, but especially for the most marginalised. As Members of Parliament, it is our job to debate and decide on laws. The robust implementation of laws that hinder forced marriage – especially if they go hand in hand with effective programmes that range from safe shelters to telephone hotlines and follow the committee’s 17 recommendations – is among the most important things we can do to protect the lives of weak and underprivileged individuals. Such legislation can make a crucial difference to such people’s survival. Girls are girls, and they must not be brides.