Child marriage, defined as a formal marriage or informal union before age 18, is a reality for both boys and girls, although girls are disproportionately the most affected.
"The problem with underage marriage is that it poses great risks to the girls involved," Lauren Wolfe, director of the Women Under Siege project, Women's Media Center. In low- and middle-income countries, pregnancy and childbirth complications are the leading cause of death for girls ages 15 to 19. Girls who marry early also rarely finish school, setting them back for life. learn more about Lauren Wolfe and Women Under Siege here>>. In some cases only one marriage-partner is a child, usually the female, due to importance placed upon female virginity. Other causes of child marriage include poverty, bride price, dowry, laws that allow child marriages, religious and social pressures, regional customs, fear of remaining unmarried, and perceived inability of women to work for money.
UNICEF notes in a 2010 study, approximately one third of women aged 20-24 years old in the developing world were married as children. Child marriage is most common in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, but there are big differences in prevalence among countries of the same region. While data from 47 countries show that, overall, the median age at first marriage is gradually increasing, this improvement has been limited primarily to girls of families with higher incomes. Overall, the pace of change remains slow. While 48 per cent of women 45-49 years old were married before the age of 18, the proportion has only dropped to 35 per cent of women 20-24 years old. (UNICEF, Progress for Children, 2010)
Child marriage is difficult to track, commonly this is due to poor reporting, and existing laws in several countries that make the practice difficult to stop. Researech into under age marriage amongst Syrian refugees, it was discovered that parents were most likely to be involved in arranging marriage of their daughters to keep them from harm. However, darker reasons exist amongst the parents such as money. Often, parents own needs and poverty delivers children to the alter in exchange for money and property.
Underage marriage is by no means limited to the Middle East, either: UNICEF reports that more than a third of all 20- to 24-year-old women in the developing world had been married before age 18. Among older women, that percentage reached almost 50 percent.
Wolfe notes that "girls are the world's forgotten population, they do hard labor and eat last, after men and boys, in many parts of the world. Most recently the Washington Post reported on a little Yemeni 11 year old girl, Nada Al-Ahdal who pleaded with parents not to arrange marriages for their young children. Nada's plea went viral on the internet and YouTube this past as she begged her parents to not marry her off to a man 5 times her age; in this case for money. Read more at the Washington Post here>>.
No one says child marriage is wrong better than a child, watch Nada as she pleads with her parents to not marry her off for money here>>
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