A prized rite that every girl must undergo at a young age, the result of poverty, destiny, life’s role … too many young girls are forced to marry too young.
The International Centre for Research on Women gives the following statistics:
- One third of girls in the developing world are married before the age of 18 and 1 in 9 are married before the age of 15.
- In 2010, 67 million women 20-24 around the world had been married before the age of 18.
- If present trends continue, 142 million girls will be married before their 18th birthday over the next decade. That’s an average of 14.2 million girls each year.
- While countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage are concentrated in Western and Sub-Saharan Africa, due to population size, the largest number of child brides reside in South Asia.
Research indicates that economics plays a significant role in the early marriage with girls from poorer households more than twice as likely to marry young than girls from higher income families. Girls with higher education are also less likely to marry at a younger age. The impact of women’s marginalisation economically and in education has consequences for generations.
For girls who are married young the consequences can be devastating. Girls younger than fifteen are five times more likely to die in childbirth, with pregnancy being the leading cause of their early death. Violence seems to stalk girls who are married young, with those who marry before eighteen more likely to experience domestic violence than their peers who marry later. Girls who have been married young show symptoms of sexual abuse and stress that is associated with marital life.
It is not just a question of alleviating poverty, though that is an essential step, nor of increasing educational opportunities for girls, though girls should be given access to education; underlying these issues are questions about attitudes to women. Whereas Ban Ki Moon has urged recognition of child marriages as a key indicator in female empowerment, tackling the roots of female marginalisation is necessary alongside measures to protect young girls who are most vulnerable.
Watch this Video on Child Marriage