Hunger, COVID 19 and traditional practices force girls like Bakita in South Sudan to early marriage

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 at least 117 countries around the world allow child marriage by law. This includes a lot of larger countries, including the UK, United States of America, Australia and New Zealand and many, many more. As per our earlier note, you 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. That’s why the UK is listed as a country that does, as any person between 16 and 18 can 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 does child marriage occur, you can see that for many countries, it simply 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. It’s why we work with community leaders and faith leaders to challenge those perceptions.

Where is child marriage most common in the world?

Out of every country in the world, it’s Niger in Africa which has the highest rate of child marriage. In fact, it’s estimated that 76% of girls will be married before their 18th birthday, with 28% being before they turn 15. The Central African Republic and Chad also face high levels of under 18 marriage, with 61% of girls married by 18. When it comes to boys, child marriage data indicates that it’s Suriname that faces the biggest issue with 20% of boys married before they turn 18.

For a regional approach, Sub-Sharan Africa has 34% of girls marrying before 18, South Asia has 28% and Latin America and the Caribbean have 22%. In total, 19% of girls around the world are married before 18 and 5% before 15.

What are the dangers of child marriage?

Adolescent pregnancies

Adolescent pregnancies can be incredibly dangerous for young girls and, across the world, 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 5 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 and education is seen as a stand-in until then, and as such, 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 a toxic situation and an environment that traps them. It can also be the case the 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?

If you are looking at how to stop child marriage, you’ll be pleased to know that 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 with young people who have been forced into child marriages to improve their situations, giving them education, healthcare and self-reliance. We also 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 do not want and to challenge adolescent marriage as the social norm.

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