Global child marriage facts

Thursday, May 19, 2016 - 00:00

As the debate about child marriages continue locally, the practice is being frown upon by the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW).

UNICEF says "marriage before the age of 18 is a fundamental violation of human rights".

It says, yet, among women aged 20 to 24 worldwide, one in four were child brides.  

The ICRW provides the following;.

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 2012, 70 million women 20-24 around the world had been married before the age of 18.

If present trends continue, 150 million girls will be married before their 18th birthday over the next decade. That’s an average of 15 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.

Poverty and child marriage

Girls living in poor households are almost twice as likely to marry before 18 than girls in higher income households.

More than half of the girls in Bangladesh, Mali, Mozambique and Niger are married before age 18. 

In these same countries, more than 75 percent of people live on less than US$2 a day.

Education and child marriage

Girls with higher levels of schooling are less likely to marry as children. 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.

Educating adolescent girls has been a critical factor in increasing the age of marriage in a number of developing countries, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand.

Health and child marriage

Pregnancy is consistently among the leading causes of death for girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide.

Child brides often face a higher risk of contracting HIV because they often marry an older man with more sexual experience. 

Girls ages 15 – 19 are 2 to 6 times more likely to contract HIV than boys of the same age in sub-Saharan Africa.

Violence and child marriage

Girls who marry before 18 are more likely to experience domestic violence than their peers who marry later. 

A study conducted by ICRW in two states in India 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.

Child brides often show signs symptomatic of sexual abuse and post-traumatic stress such as feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and severe depression.

Religion and child marriage

No one religious affiliation is associated with child marriage. Rather, a variety of religions are associated with child marriage in countries throughout the world.