- it is estimated that 1 in 3 girls in the developing world marry before the age of 18
- by 2050, there will be approximately 1.2 BILLION child brides
- India, with an estimated 10 million child brides, has more than the next 9 countries combined (see below)
- some child brides are as young as 8 or 9
Why is this a problem?
- it is a violation of human rights and, in most countries, is illegal
- it is a key driver of pregnancy and childbirth complications in girls 15 – 19
- it puts girls at greater risk of domestic violence
- it deprives girls of their education, fosters dependency, and reduces earning capabilities
For too long, countries have hidden behind ‘traditional practices’ or ‘religious customs’ as justification for this practice which is, in reality, more akin to kidnapping, slavery, and rape.
Families still collecting a bride price or paying a dowry can perpetuate the problem: poor families may be interested in the income from selling a daughter as early as possible for the bride price or, in other countries, paying a lower dowry to marry off a younger and less educated girl.
In highly traditional patriarchal societies where honor is tied up with female virginity, fear of female sexuality drives families to sell young daughters into marriage. This is exacerbated where caste purity has strong importance; girls are sacrificed to ‘protect’ male honor.
But practices are slowly changing, thanks in no small part of organizations such as Girls Not Brides and American Jewish World Service. Take a look at their work. We all owe them a huge debt.
10 Countries with the highest absolute numbers of child marriage*
- India 10,063,000
- Bangladesh 2,359,000
- Nigeria 1,193,000
- Brazil 877,000
- Ethiopia 673,000
- Pakistan 600,000
- Indonesia 458,000
- Democratic Republic of the Congo 291,000
- Mexico 260,000
- Niger 244,000