Perth: Concerned over prevalence of early and forced marriages, Commonwealth leaders on Sunday sought renewed emphasis on tackling the practice as they committed to improving gender equality and empowerment of women.

In a communique at the end of their three-day summit here, the 54-member grouping said the Commonwealth would "promote the implementation of measures to tackle early and forced marriage".

The group of mostly former British colonies said they would give due consideration to the domestic legislation of member countries on the issue.

The communique also said the Commonwealth may address the issue of early and forced marriage, and consider actions to support the rights of women and children and to share its best practices to promote the implementation of measures to tackle early and forced marriage.

On Saturday, Queen Elizabeth II and a group of eminent personalities had called for action to end the practice of early and forced marriages in countries of the Commonwealth.

Of the 20 countries with a high prevalence of child marriages, 12 are in the Commonwealth -- including India.

None of the Commonwealth's democratic or development goals can be achieved without first empowering its girls and women, who represent more than half of the Commonwealth's two billion people, a statement said.

The statement was issued jointly by the Queen, Quentin Bryce, Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia, Surujrattan Rambachan, Foreign Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and Malcom Fraser, former Prime Minister of Australia.

Early and forced marriage is one of the most significant barriers to girls' education, maternal health, female economic empowerment and the realisation of basic, fundamental human
rights, it added.

In her address at the inaugural, Commonwealth head Queen Elizabeth II had said, "The Commonwealth theme this year is 'Women As Agents of Change'. It reminds us of the potential in our societies that is yet to be fully unlocked, and it encourages us to find ways to allow all girls and women to play their full part.”

"We must continue to strive in our own countries and across the Commonwealth together to promote that theme in a lasting way beyond this year."

The Commonwealth has a strong foundation of commitments, conventions and treaties on which to act towards gender equality, like its Plan of Action for Gender Equality 2005-2015.

(Agencies)