About child marriage

Child marriage is a global issue. It is fuelled by gender inequality, poverty, social norms and insecurity, and has devastating consequences all over the world. Here, you can discover more about the extent and impacts of child marriage and the progress we’ve made towards ending it.

Graphical representation of globe

12 million girls are married before the age of 18 each year

Graphical representation of community

That is 23 girls
every minute

Graphical representation of youth

Nearly 1 every
3 seconds [1]

View sources

Why it happens

Child marriage is rooted in gender inequality and the belief that girls and women are inferior to boys and men. It is made worse by poverty, lack of education, harmful social norms and practices, and insecurity. Its drivers vary between communities and it looks different across the world.

Where it happens

Child marriage is a truly global problem. It happens across countries, cultures, religions and ethnicities. Use our interactive atlas to understand the scale of the problem and what is being done to end it. You can also find data to support your advocacy and fundraising, and to connect with others working on the issue in your location.

How to end it

Child marriage looks different from one community to the next. There is no single solution, actor or sector to end it; we must all work together. Solutions must be local, contextual and integrated. The Girls Not Brides Theory of Change shows the range and combination of approaches needed, and the role everyone has to play.

The law and child marriage

Child marriage or marriage without the free and full consent of both spouses is a human rights violation. Progressive legal frameworks are one element of the comprehensive response needed to successfully address child marriage, as reflected within the Girls Not Brides Theory of Change.

Further information about child marriage

More than 650 million women alive today already suffer the direct consequences of child marriage.

Globally, the rates of child marriage are slowly declining but progress isn't happening fast enough.

If pre-pandemic trends continue, 150 million more girls will be married by 2030 [2]. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this may increase by a further 13 million girls [3].

Child marriage violates girls’ rights to health, education and opportunity.

Child marriage is any formal marriage or informal union where one or both parties are under 18 years of age. It is rooted in gender inequality.

Girls who formally marry or cohabit as if married before the age of 18 are more likely to have early pregnancies, experience dangerous complications in pregnancy and childbirth, acquire HIV, and experience domestic violence. Ending child marriage will improve the health of millions of girls, and their children. Find out more on our Health learning page.

When a girl gets married she is often expected to drop out of school to look after the home, children and extended family. For the same reasons – and sometimes because of official school or national policies – it is difficult for married girls, pregnant girls and young mothers to return to school. Find out more on our Education learning page.

When they marry as children, girls miss out on developing the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to make informed decisions, negotiate, access paid employment and live independent lives. With little access to education and economic opportunities, girls and their families are more likely to live in poverty. Find out more on our Economic Justice learning page (coming soon).

Systems that undervalue the contribution and participation of girls and women limit their own possibilities for growth, stability and transformation.

Child marriage directly hinders the achievement of at least six of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Find out more on our SDG and Gender learning pages (coming soon).

Ending child marriage and guaranteeing girls’ rights means a fairer, more secure and prosperous future for us all.

View our Learning & Resources section
  • Advocacy

    At Girls Not Brides we want to see local and national governments, regional bodies, and global institutions direct money and resources towards ending child marriage. We advocate for child marriage laws, policies and programmes that empower girls and their communities. We want them to be well-financed, comprehensive, and multi-sectoral.

  • Youth Activism

    Resources, tools and information for young activists, member organisations, civil society actors and donors to support and promote meaningful inclusion of youth in the collective efforts of the Partnership to end child marriage.

  • Child Marriage Research to Action Network

    The CRANK is a joint initiative and platform for a coordinated global research agenda on child marriage, and to encourage the uptake of research by policy makers and practitioners. On…

Data sources

  • [1] UNICEF, Child marriage database, 2020
  • [2] Ibid
  • [3] UNFPA, UNFPA projections predict calamitous impact on women’s health as COVID-19 pandemic continues, 2020

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