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Marriage for girls

Child marriage is rooted in gender inequality and the belief that girls and women are inferior to boys and men. It is made worse by poverty, lack of education, harmful social norms and practices, and insecurity.


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Child Marriage is defined as a marriage of a girl or boy before the age of 18 and refers to both formal marriages and informal unions in which children under the age of 18 live with a partner as if married. Child marriage affects both girls and boys, but it affects girls disproportionately, especially in South Asia. South Asia has the highest rates of child marriage in the world. India has the largest of brides in the world — one-third of the global total.

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What is child marriage? Why does child marriage happen? How common is child marriage?

Child marriage

Where does child marriage happen? How old are the children involved in child marriages? What is the usual age difference between bride and her husband? Are boys ever married off while still children? What are the consequences of child marriage? Is child marriage legal?

How can the world end child marriage? What will it cost to end child marriage? What is the difference between child marriage, early marriage and forced marriage? What does teen pregnancy have to do with child marriage? Child marriage is a marriage in which one or both spouses are under 18 years old.

Although this definition sounds straightforward, the realities of child marriage can be complicated. This is also the legal definition used in most parts of the world. The Convention on the Rights of the Child makes an exception for national laws recognizing an earlier age of majority. Some countries and cultures consider adulthood a state achieved upon marriage — for example, countries where full age means the age of 18 years and above, and any married woman is deemed to be of full age, even if she is under And other countries have an older minimum age of marriage, such as Nepal, where the law requires both men and women be at least 20 when they marry.

The concept of marriage also varies — it can be formal or informal, governed by civil law, common law or religious law, or simply be a customary practice. In many parts of the world, for example, marriages may be recognized by the community without legal registration, marked simply with a ceremony. In countries where polygamous marriage is not permitted by civil law, second and third marriages often take place without formal registration. Major surveys try to for this variation when measuring child marriage. Multiple Indicators Cluster Surveys and Demographic Health Surveysfor example, collect information on the date Marriage for girls age at which women and men were married or first started living with their first spouses or partners.

Regardless of these varying definitions, child marriage is a serious human rights violation that directly threatens lives, health, safety and education of girls and boys, limiting their future prospects. It can be hard to imagine why someone would choose to have their child married off. But for millions of people, child marriage can seem like the best — or only — option. Daughters are frequently Marriage for girls as burdens or commodities because of pervasive gender inequality. This may be the case when parents face economic hardships or when girls are forced by poverty or circumstance to drop out of school.

Parents — especially in humanitarian crises — often view marriage as a way to protect their daughters from sexual violence. Child marriage rates have been known to increase during the chaos of war, as families endure both economic instability and fear of violence. Yet child marriage itself le to girls experiencing high levels of sexual, physical and emotional violence from their intimate partners.

Although most adolescent pregnancies in the developing world take place among girls who are already married, in some places, teenage pregnancy prompts parents to marry their daughters off. This is seen in both wealthy and poor countries where communities consider pregnancy outside of marriage to be shameful.

Girls may even be forced to marry rapists to spare their families the stigma associated with unmarried pregnancy. Often, adolescents themselves decide to marry their partner, whether a peer or an older individual.

These marriages may be a way to exercise independence, leave home or escape difficult circumstances, including desperate poverty or family violence. Restrictions on adolescent sexuality outside of marriage also drive some adolescents to see marriage as the only way to be sexually active. In most cases, child marriage is the result of girls and families having few choices. Overwhelmingly, when young people have a choice, they marry later.

Child marriage - frequently asked questions

More than million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday. Twenty-one per cent of young women years old around the world were Marriage for girls brides. And while child marriage is most prevalent in low- and middle-income countries, it also takes place in high-income countries.

There is good news: global child marriage rates are slowly falling. Aroundone in three women between the ages of 20 and 24 reported they had been married as children. Inthis was just over one in five. Rates of child marriage before age 15 also fell, from 11 per cent in to 5 per cent in Still, progress has been uneven and child marriage is not declining fast enough.

Because of population growth in regions where child marriage is more prevalent, such as West and Central Africa, the rate of decline is slow and the total of child marriages is projected to increase by To change this, we must accelerate our actions to end child marriage.

South Asia has seen dramatic declines in child marriage over the last decade, and now the global burden of child marriage is shifting to sub-Saharan Africa. Of the most recently married child brides, close to 1 in 3 are now in sub-Saharan Africa, compared to 1 in 5 a decade ago. While sub-Saharan Africa still has some of the highest rates of child marriage, South Asia is home to the largest s of child brides.

It even happens in developed countries — including the United States and United Kingdom. Many people assume that when child marriage takes place in affluent countries, it only involves immigrant communities. This is not the case.

Child marriage is known to take place across a wide range of communities, ethnicities and religions. Still, child marriage is much more common in the developing world because one of the main Marriage for girls factors is poverty. The highest rates of child marriage are seen in West and Central Africa, where over four in ten girls were married before age In terms of sheer s, South Asia is home to the largest s of child brides. Children can be married off at any age. The most common ages at which children are married are 16 and The prevalence of these marriages varies by country.

UNFPA has found that very early marriages constitute 30 per cent or more of child marriages in 14 out of 82 low- and middle-income countries for which data are available. In circumstances where parents are under enormous pressure to marry off their daughters — for those living in extreme poverty or in conflict settings, for instance — marriages have been reported among girls around 11 or 12 because girls are seen both as being ready for marriage and at risk of sexual violence.

More than million women already suffer the direct consequences of child marriage. at current rates, million more girls will be married as children by

In some cases, children are as young as five when they are married, although this is rare. Extremely young brides and grooms are sometimes married in ceremony only, but live with their own parents until they are adolescents.

Children who are married — and they are overwhelmingly girls — tend to have spouses who are much older. When this is the case, the girls are generally more vulnerable and less able to advocate for their needs and desires. Demographic and health surveys tools for collecting key health and demographic information even track age differences between girls and their spouses.

This information is used as one of a variety of factors to evaluate the well-being of girls a community. Still, Marriage for girls marriages are not always unions between girls and much-older men. In some communities, it is customary to wed girls and boys who are similar ages. And there are also cases of adolescents marrying one another voluntarily — sometimes called "love marriages" — in unions that are forbidden by family members. Such marriages can put young people at risk of retributive violence, and because the spouses often run away, they may lack economic support or face social isolation.

However, UNFPA has found that in all 82 low- and middle-income countries for which there are data, the prevalence of child marriage is ificantly lower for males than females. Only 1 in 25 boys 3. Only 10 countries have marriage prevalence for boys over 10 per cent — including 16 per cent in Madagascar; 14 per cent in Pakistan; 13 per cent in Central African Republic and the Lao People's Democratic Republic; 12 per cent in Comoros, Honduras, the Marshall Islands and Nauru; 11 per cent in Nepal; and 10 per cent in Guatemala.

Child marriage rates for boys are very low even in countries where child marriage among girls is relatively high. At the most basic level, it denies children the right to choose — with full and free consent and without coercion or fear — whom to marry, and when. And there are additional consequences. Child brides are more likely to become pregnant before their bodies are mature, increasing the risks of both maternal and newborn death and morbidity. In developing countries, nine out of 10 births to adolescent girls occur within a marriage or a union.

In these countries, where access to sexual and reproductive health services is generally low, complications from pregnancy and childbirth can be deadly. In fact, globally, these complications are the leading cause of death among adolescent girls.

Contributing to this problem is the fact that girls who have dropped out of school are more vulnerable to child marriage and less likely to be equipped with information about protecting themselves from STIs and unplanned pregnancy. Child brides are particularly vulnerable to abuse. They are less able to advocate for themselves and less able to Marriage for girls abusive relationships. Mental illness is common among child brides, for example, due to their experience of violence.

About child marriage

Girls who marry young are also more likely to think that wife beating is justified than women who marry later in life. Married girls rarely enrol in school because they are expected to assume ificant domestic responsibilities. This limits their future potential, and makes it harder for their families to escape poverty. Lack of education and empowerment also mean girls are less able to advocate for the well-being of their own children. The children of child brides have higher mortality rates, worse nutritional outcomes, and tend to be less educated.

Cumulatively, child marriage takes an enormous toll on communities, workforces and economies, and the loss is carried over generations. The CRC establishes the internationally agreed definition ofand the right of children to health, education, protection from violence, and protection from sexual exploitation and abuse, all of which are violated by child marriage.