Currently, there are hundreds of millions of women and girls that were forced to get married when they were still children. Child marriage forces girls to leave schools, denying them the opportunity to get an education. In addition, early pregnancy is one of the most common, immediate, and dangerous consequences of this terrible practice.
It often involves the most vulnerable, poor, and marginalized girls, but also entire communities and societies, constraining child brides and their families in a cycle of poverty that can persist even through generations. Putting an end to this phenomenon means giving the opportunity to girls to finish school, get an education, find a satisfying job, postpone motherhood, and achieve their potential.
This year for Valentine’s Day, UNFPA and AIDOS ask the world to prioritize the end of child marriage.
A better knowledge of this issue can help governments, parliaments, activists – as well as the young women themselves – to end the practice once and for all. You might not know:
1. Child marriage is a phenomenon practiced in the whole world. More than 650 million women and girls were forced to get married before the age of 18 years old. Globally, 21% of young women, aged between 20 and 24 years old, were child brides. Examples of this harmful practice can be found everywhere in the world.
2. Progress has been made, but it’s still not enough.
Globally, the child marriage growth rate is slowly decreasing. But in order to reduce the number of child brides compared to the growth of the population, more efforts need to be made quickly.
Without immediate action, the number of child marriages will increase by 2030.
3. The cost of ending child marriage is surprisingly cheap.
According to a study carried out by UNFPA with some American universities, the cost to end child marriage, in 68 countries that represent about 90% of the phenomenon, by 2030, is US$ 35 billion. It’s US$ 600 for every child saved.
4. Child marriage involves both boys and girls, but girls are more likely to be involved and they are more subject to this practice.
Boys constitute 3,8% of the total number. Girls are more subject to experience violence by the husband and by family members; in addition, girls often experience early pregnancies that are very dangerous for their health.
5. Child marriage is against the law almost in the whole world.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, two treaties that have been signed or ratified by all countries except one, forbid child marriage. Yet, in the whole world, there are various local or national laws that permit different interpretations of the treaties.
6. Child marriage and early pregnancy are close – and dangerously – connected.
Early pregnancy is one of the most immediate consequences of child marriage.
In the so-called developing countries, 9 out of 10 childbirths, concerning teenage mothers, occur among young girls who were forced to get married. These pregnancies pose serious health risks to these young girls whose bodies may not be ready for motherhood. Globally, complications due to early pregnancy and childbirth are the main cause of death among teenagers.
7. Girls’ and women’s empowerment is essential to put an end to child marriages.
Many changes need to be made in order to end this phenomenon, including the reinforcement and the implementation of laws against this practice, the promotion of gender equality, and the endorsement by the communities to support girls’ rights. Girls need to be able to know and claim their rights. Girls can bring the needed change in the families and in the communities of their countries.