What is the impact?
Each year, 15 million girls are married before the age of 18. That is 28 girls every minute – married off too soon, endangering their personal development and wellbeing. With more young people on our planet than ever before, child marriage is a human rights violation that we must end to achieve a fairer future for all.
Child brides are often disempowered, dependent on their husbands and deprived of their fundamental rights to health, education and safety. Neither physically nor emotionally ready to become wives and mothers, child brides are at greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications in pregnancy and childbirth, becoming infected with HIV/AIDS and suffering domestic violence. With little access to education and economic opportunities, they and their families are more likely to live in poverty.
Nations also feel the impact: a system that undervalues the contribution of young women limits its own possibilities. In this way, child marriage drains countries of the innovation and potential that would enable them to thrive.
Child marriage facts
- More than 700 million women alive today were married before their 18th birthday. That is the equivalent of 10% of the world’s population.
- If there is no reduction in child marriage, an additional 1.2 billion girls will be married by 2050.
- Some child brides are as young as eight or nine.
- Most adolescent pregnancies (90%) take place within marriage.
- Pregnancy and childbirth complications are among the leading causes of death in girls aged 15 to 19 in low- and middle-income countries.
Compelling reasons to act now
Globally, the rates of child marriage are slowly declining. Growing commitments to address the issue, such as the inclusion of target 5.3 to end child, early and forced marriage in the Sustainable Development Goals, are encouraging. However, there are urgent reasons to double our efforts.
It violates human rights and is illegal
In many countries, child marriage is prohibited, but existing laws are often not enforced or provide exceptions for parental consent or traditional and customary laws. Child marriage reinforces gender inequality and violates human rights. Tolerating any injustice makes it easier for others to exist.
It perpetuates poverty
Married girls often leave school and so can lack the skills to help lift their families out of poverty. Without addressing child marriage, the international community will fail to achieve its commitment in the Sustainable Development Goals to reduce global poverty.
The longer we wait, the bigger the problem will be
Millions of girls and women already suffer the consequences of child marriage. If we do nothing, population growth means that, by 2050, the total number of women married as children will grow to 1.2 billion, with devastating consequences for girls, their families and their countries. Boys are also affected – 33 million men today were married before the age of 15 and 156 million before the age of 18.
Progress is possible
The complex mix of cultural and economic factors mean there is not a single, simple solution. But, through partnership, long-term programming and a willingness to learn from our successes and failures, we can end child marriage in a generation.
Girls Not Brides shows the will of a global movement to end child marriage. By connecting and amplifying the voice of civil society organisations across the world, we help instil the global pressure that makes ground-level change happen.
Informed by their experience of working with girls, families and their communities, Girls Not Brides members have come together to articulate what an effective response to child marriage entails. Together we develop evidence-based solutions – like our Theory of Change – to outline how we can end child marriage and enable girls to achieve their potential in all aspects of their lives.
Child marriage and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Child marriage directly hinders the achievement of at least 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals. Simply put, the international community will not fulfil its vision of more sustainable world for all unless it tackles child marriage.
Girls are disproportionately affected by child marriage
While boys are sometimes subjected to early marriage, girls are disproportionately affected and form the vast majority of the victims of child marriage. A comparison of the proportion of young women aged 15-19 who were married in 2003 to young men aged 15-19 who were married in the same year found the ratio to be 72 to 1 in Mali, 8 to 1 in the US, and 6 to 1 in El Salvador.
What does child marriage mean for girls?