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Child Marriage FAQs

Learn about the causes and consequences of child marriage.

How many countries allow child marriage?

It may be shocking to many to find out that some countries around the world allow child marriage by law. This includes some parts of the United States of America. As per our earlier note, we need to remember that child marriage is classed as any marriage happening with a person or persons under the age of 18, and so, countries that feature exemptions for those under that age will fall into the bracket of allowing child marriage.

Until recently, in the UK any person between 16 and 18 could get married with their parent or legal guardian’s permission. This means that the answer to the question ‘where does child marriage occur’ is more places than you would think.  

It also means that, for those who are wondering why child marriage occurs, you can see that for many countries, it occurs because it is allowed to occur. When something is as much of a social norm as child marriage, it makes people less likely to challenge it and question its practice.

Child marriage also happens when societies perceive women and girls are inferior to boys and men, and decisions are made by men on how women and girls behave, dress or engage with others. Some families, particularly those living in poverty, resort to giving away their girls to marriage to reduce the costs or gain financial security. Conflict and climate change events can also increase children’s, especially girls’ vulnerability to child marriage. It’s why we work with community leaders and faith leaders to challenge those perceptions and tackle the root causes.


Where is child marriage most common in the world?

Child marriage is most common in Sub-Saharan Africa with Niger having the highest rate at 76%, followed by Central African Republic (61%) and Chad (61%). In South Asia, child marriage is widely practiced for example in Bangladesh, 51% of girls in Bangladesh are married before their 18th birthday. 

What are the dangers of child marriage?

Adolescent pregnancies 

Adolescent pregnancies can be incredibly dangerous for young girls across the world, and it’s found they are more common in those who are married. Having a child this young can set up the course of a girl’s life, where she is only able to fill the role of a mother from then on and misses out on vital education and work. Not only does this affect the girl, but the child, as children are 50% less likely to survive past five if they are born to an uneducated mother. 

Complications in pregnancy or childbirth are another major issue. In fact, it’s such an issue that it’s the leading cause of death globally amongst girls from 15 – 19. So, for those who do get pregnant at a young age, there are very few positive outcomes to expect.  

Lack of education 

Even for those who don’t fall pregnant in their teen years, it can be very common that a young marriage will also mean leaving education and becoming a housewife for young girls. In many cultures, marriage can be the end goal for girls. Getting an education is seen as a stand-in until then, so when they do get married, education is all but forgotten about.  

Reliance on the partner 

A problem for young girls especially in a marriage is the reliance they will have on a partner. If education is abandoned and they are expected to stay at home, keep the house and look after the children, their reliance on their partner will increase which can lead to domestic violence and an environment that traps them. It can also be the case that girls are forced into marriage by their parents’ living conditions as a way to escape poverty, and they have nothing to return to should the marriage not be a positive experience (as unfortunately, many aren’t).


How can I help stop child marriage?

World Vision works globally to help put an end to child marriage. We believe every child deserves the chance to fulfil their God-given potential and through child marriage education and support schemes, we can help this to be realised. 

We work to prevent child marriages from happening, reaching out to communities to create an open channel for people to express when they feel a child is being forced into a marriage they don't want, and to challenge adolescent marriage as the social norm. We also work with young people who have been forced into child marriages to improve their situations, helping them to access education, healthcare and become self-sufficient.


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