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Walsh, Sophie D. This information is used as one of a variety of factors to evaluate the well-being of girls a community. Still, child 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.
Only 1 in 25 boys 3. Only 10 countries have a child 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 escape abusive relationships. Mental illness is common among child brides, for example, due to their experience of violence. 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 significant 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 of a child, and 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.
Still, there are some national laws that enable different interpretations of this agreed principle. Many countries permit exceptions with parental consent or under religious or customary law. Even in places where child marriage is clearly legally prohibited, enforcement can be complicated by the fact that many child marriages — and many marriages in general — are not legally registered. UNFPA works with governments to advocate stronger laws, policies and enforcement mechanisms to end child marriage. UNFPA is also working with men, women and young people, including adolescent girls, to address the root causes of child marriage — continuing poverty and gender inequality.
UNFPA also supports married girls, particularly with sexual and reproductive health services and essential services responding to gender-based violence. There are no major religious traditions that require child marriage. Yet child marriage persists, across many cultures and religions. But it would be wrong to say that child marriage warrants protection as a cultural or religious practice. Governments around the world have overwhelmingly, and independently, decided that child marriage is a grave violation of human rights.
In places where child marriage persists, evidence about its harms are usually convincing to policymakers, community leaders, religious leaders and parents.
In fact, there are many examples of cultural and religious leaders taking a strong stance against child marriage. But prohibitions themselves are not always sufficient; because child marriage is typically the result of a lack of choices, and because it is viewed as the norm, families and communities also need alternatives.
Laws prohibiting child marriage need to be enacted, strengthened and enforced. And more attention is needed to related laws such as on bride price and dowry, marital rape, birth and marriage registration, and mandatory schooling. Fundamentally, gender equality must be advanced. When educating daughters is considered as worthwhile as educating sons, when communities — both men and women — give equal weight to the future potential of girls and boys, there is less motivation to engage in child marriage.
In addition, adolescent girls and boys are less likely to want to marry before age 18 when they are empowered with information about their sexual and reproductive health and when they are able to decide freely and responsibly matters related to their sexuality, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. Improved circumstances for families can also reduce the incentive to marry off children. Families, including girls, need to be able to live in peace and move in safety. And extreme poverty, which drives so many child marriages, must be eradicated.
For this, many changes are needed, including social safety nets for girls and their families, as well as improved access to education, health services and economic opportunities. Girls can play an important role in ending child marriage — when they know their rights and have access to the right information and opportunities. UNFPA has seen that when girls are empowered to stand up for themselves, they can persuade their families to delay or cancel engagements.
Instead, they can stay in school, gain skills and support their families economically.
Many have been inspired to become advocates and leaders in their communities. UNFPA and its partners are now working to bring these changes to the most vulnerable girls. It is also contributing to a more girl-friendly legal and policy environment, and generating data on what works to address child marriage and related issues such as adolescent pregnancy, gender-based violence and HIV. In fact, they are overlapping. Child marriage and early marriage largely refer to the same thing: marriages in which one or both spouses are under 18 years old.
However, early marriage is also sometimes used to describe marriages in which one or both spouses are 18 or older, but with a compromised ability to grant consent. For example, the marriage of a year-old who is not physically or emotionally mature, or who does not have sufficient information about her choices, would be considered an early marriage. Forced marriage is a marriage in which one or both spouses do not give full and free consent, regardless of age. Forced marriage can also refer to a union in which one or both spouses are unable to end or leave the marriage. Because in most countries children are not considered able to give legal consent, all child marriages are sometimes considered forced marriages.
However, there are many instances of two adolescents under the age of 18 marrying each other voluntarily. In the developing world, around 90 per cent of adolescent births those among girls years old take place among girls who are already married. This means that child marriage is often a precursor to early pregnancy, which poses a host of health risks to girls whose bodies may not yet be mature enough for motherhood.
Globally, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among adolescent girls. In some places, the causality is reversed.
While most adolescent childbearing occurs within marriage, it is not uncommon for first births that occur within marriage to be the result of premarital conceptions. Teenage pregnancy is often an incentive for parents to marry their daughters off. This is seen in countries all over the world where communities see pregnancy outside marriage as shameful. Skip to main content Skip to navigation. State of World Population She is 10 years old. Capable of rapidly absorbing wisdom and knowledge from those around her, she is poised to one day become an inspiring leader, a productive worker, an innovator, a caring parent or any of the other In Uganda, surviving rape and child marriage one plait at a time.