Actress Emma Watson condemns child marriage during Malawi trip

Mon Oct 10, 2016 6:06pm EDT
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By Sebastien Malo

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - British actress Emma Watson condemned child marriage during a visit to Malawi on Monday, calling on authorities across Africa to end the practice that can put young lives as risk as well as stopping girls get an education and a better future.

Watson, 26, a goodwill ambassador for UN Women, was visiting the southeastern African nation a day ahead of the International Day of the Girl Child.

In 2015, Malawi passed a law to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18 with UN Women working with traditional chiefs to change local practices.

"Meeting with young girls, who like many in their country, are struggling with poverty and were pressured into early marriage ... made me realize just how important it is for women to be able to make their own choices," Watson said in a statement.

"It's so encouraging to see how such a harmful practice can be stopped when communities work together," added the actress who rose to fame as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series.

U.N. data shows that globally, one-third of girls in developing countries, excluding China, are married before the age of 18, denying them their childhood and right to go to school.

Even though Malawi has now made child marriage illegal, campaigners have voiced concerns that marriages regulated by custom can occur informally.

During her visit, Watson met with traditional leaders who have championed the annulment of child marriages in their communities.   Continued...

UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador, Emma Watson, speaks during a news conference to launch the HeForShe IMPACT on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York City, U.S. September 20, 2016.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid