Photo credit: European Commission - ECHO
In areas where girls are at high risk of physical or sexual assault, some parents choose to marry off their daughter because they believe it will ensure her safety. These concerns are real; the dangers and risks that girls face in many countries are serious and the real and perceived threat of sexual violence only increases during times of conflict and instability.
During these challenging times, families are often forced to make difficult decisions. For some parents, marriage is seen as a form of protection for girls as well as a way to alleviate the economic burden on already over stretched resources.
In Syrian refugee communities in Jordan, the number of registered marriages involving a girl under the age of 18 has grown from 12% in 2011 to just under 32% in early 2014. But early marriage does not provide a safe alternative.
Child marriage puts girls and women at a higher risk of sexual, physical and psychological violence throughout their lives. Girls who are married before 18 are more likely to experience domestic abuse and to report that their first sexual experience was forced.
Child brides are rarely able to assert their wishes to their often much older husbands or negotiate safe and consensual sex. Early pregnancy and forced sexual initiation can affect the mental health of girls for years to come. They are also more likely to believe that a man is justified in beating his wife than women who marry later. Globally 44% of girls aged 15-19 think a husband or partner is justified in hitting or beating his wife or partner.
- UNICEF, Hidden in plain sight: a statistical analysis of violence against children, 2014
- UNICEF, A study on early marriage in Jordan, 2014
- ICRW, Child marriage and domestic violence: a fact sheet, 2006