10 Facts About Child Brides and Child Marriage

Forced Marriages Put Girls Under 18 at Greater Health and Economic Risks

Child marriage is a global epidemic, one that affects tens of millions of girls worldwide. Although The United Nations' Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) says the following regarding the right to protection from child marriage: "The betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage," millions of girls across the world still have little choice on whether they marry before they become adults.

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An Estimated 51 Million Girls Younger than 18 Worldwide are Child Brides.

Omar, an 18-year-old groom, looks at his 15-year-old bride Khadija as other newly married couples have photographs taken April 25, 2002 in Baghdad, Iraq. Salah Malkawi / Stringer / Getty Images

One-third of girls in the developing world are married before the age of 18. 1 in 9 are married before the age of 15.

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.

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The Majority of Child Marriages Occur in West and East Africa and South Asia.

 UNICEF notes that "Across the globe, rates of child marriage are highest in South Asia, where nearly half of all girls marry before age 18; about one in six were married or in union before age 15. This is followed by West and Central Africa and Eastern and Southern Africa, where 42 percent and 37 percent, respectively, of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married in childhood." 

However, while the largest number of child brides are in South Asia due to sheer population size, the countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage are concentrated in Western and Sub-Saharan Africa.

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Over The Next Decade 100 Million Girls Will Become Child Brides.

The percentage of girls who marry before 18 in various countries is alarmingly high. 

Niger: 82%

Bangladesh: 75%

Nepal: 63%

Indian: 57% 

Uganda: 50%

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Child Marriage Endangers Girls.

Child brides experience a higher incidence of domestic violence, marital abuse (including physical, sexual or psychological abuse) and abandonment.

The International Center for Research on Women conducted a study in two states in India and found that girls who were married before 18 were twice as likely to report being beaten, slapped or threatened by their husbands than girls who married later.

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Many Child Brides are Well Below the Age of 15.

Although the median age of marriage for child brides is 15, some girls as young as 7 or 8 are forced into marriage.

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Child Marriage Increases Maternal Mortality and Infant Mortality Rates.

In fact, pregnancy is consistently among the leading causes of death for girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide.

Girls who become pregnant under the age of 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women who give birth in their 20s.

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Risk Factors for Young Teen Girls Who Give Birth are Greatly Increased.

For example, 2 million women worldwide suffer from obstetric fistula, a debilitating complication of childbirth especially common among physically immature girls.

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Sexual Disparity in Child Marriages Increases Risk of AIDS.

Because many often marry older men with more sexual experience, child brides face a higher risk of contracting HIV.

Indeed, research shows that early marriage is a major risk factor for contracting HIV and developing AIDS.

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Child Marriage Adversely Impacts the Education of Girls

In some of the poorest countries, girls readied for early marriage do not attend school. Those that do are frequently forced to drop out after marriage.

Girls with higher levels of schooling are less likely to marry as children. For example, in Mozambique, some 60 percent of girls with no education are married by 18, compared to 10 percent of girls with secondary schooling and less than one percent of girls with higher education.

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The Prevalence of Child Marriage is Related to Poverty Levels.

Child brides are more likely to come from a poor family and once married, are more likely to continue living in poverty. In some countries, child marriages among the poorest fifth of the population occur at rates up to five times that of the richest fifth.

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Lowen, Linda. "10 Facts About Child Brides and Child Marriage." ThoughtCo, Jul. 31, 2021, thoughtco.com/facts-about-child-brides-3534348. Lowen, Linda. (2021, July 31). 10 Facts About Child Brides and Child Marriage. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/facts-about-child-brides-3534348 Lowen, Linda. "10 Facts About Child Brides and Child Marriage." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/facts-about-child-brides-3534348 (accessed October 18, 2021).