Briefing paper
6 April 2022

Girls’ sexuality and child, early, and forced marriages and unions: A conceptual framework

Author: Marissa Billowitz, Nidal Karim, Katherine Watson
Published by: Girls Not Brides
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This is a conceptual framework to support gender-transformative advocacy and programming to prevent child marriage and advance adolescent girls’ rights and agency by addressing the link between fear and control of sexuality and CEFMU. Also includes an advocacy brief/note to donors.

Girls’ and women’s agency over their sexuality, and freedom from harmful gender norms will only be possible when we address the practice of child, early and forced marriage and unions. And yet, child marriage interventions rarely engage with the subject of sexuality.

The “Girls’ sexuality and child marriage: A conceptual framework” – developed with collaborators in the Child, Early and Forced Marriage and Unions and Sexuality Working Group and the Torchlight Collective – sets out the child marriage interventions and investments needed to successfully address the fear and control of adolescent girls’ sexuality, which is a deeply rooted driver of child marriage and gender inequality.

Read the framework for:

  • A strong investment case for programming that addresses fear and control of adolescent girls’ sexuality. This is critical for the child marriage movement and to advance girls’ agency and positive outcomes in reproductive health, education, labour and political participation.
  • How to deconstruct and transform deeply rooted social norms around gender, sexuality and child marriage cited as the number one contextual factor driving child marriage in almost every setting. This includes gender-transformative approaches, core programming principles and making strategic choices about changemakers.
  • Recommendations for future action and research.
  • The ‘voices’ of adolescent girls describing the restrictions, scrutiny and life-limiting impact of this fear and control of their sexuality
  • Annexes that include the tools and protocols used in the consultation process with adolescent girls in Guatemala, India and Niger which can be easily adapted.

The report was produced by The Child, Early and Forced Marriage and Unions and Sexuality Working Group and collaborators :

Aahung, American Jewish World Service (AJWS), CARE, CREA, EMpower, EngenderHealth, Girls First Fund, Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage, Global Fund for Women, GreeneWorks, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), FosFeminista, International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), MADRE, Nirantar Trust, Plan International, Population Council, Promundo-US, The Summit Foundation, The YP Foundation, UNFPA, UNICEF.