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Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18

* References

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)

Photo credit: Kanishka Afshari | FCO/DFID

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18

* References

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)

What's the child marriage rate? How big of an issue is child marriage?

35% of Afghan girls are married before the age of 18 and 9% are married before their 15th birthday.

The lowest median age at first marriage is in Nimroz.

According to UNICEF, Afghanistan has the 18th highest absolute number (572,000) of child brides in the world.

Are there country-specific drivers of child marriage in this country?

Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that girls are somehow inferior to boys. In Afghanistan, child marriage is also driven by:

  • Level of education: Government data indicates that girls who do not study are three times more likely to marry before the age of 18 than girls who have completed secondary education or higher. A 2017 report shows that when a girl is married off, her sister often has to take on her household duties and consequently drops out of school and becomes vulnerable to child marriage. Even the anticipation of marriage forces some girls to leave school.
  • Displacement: A 2015 study shows that internally displaced girls are often married off to older men who are able to pay dowry and support them during times of food insecurity.
  • Traditional customs: Child marriage is sometimes used to strengthen ties between rival families and settle disputes – a practice known as baad. Girls have little say in this and often face serious physical and emotional abuse. When they try to escape, they are sometimes arrested for zina (running away) which is seen a moral crime.
  • Traditional attitudes: A 2017 study shows that younger, single Afghans in urban areas are much more in favour of girls marrying at an older age, compared with older, married Afghans in rural areas.
  • Limited awareness: 2017 studies show that television and radio encourages people to consider delaying marriage for girls. Those relying on shuras (community councils) and mosques generally support marrying at younger ages.
  • Family practices: Baadal is a practice whereby a settlement is agreed for girls to be married off within or between families, either before birth or as young as two. This prevents a girl from understanding or negotiating the terms of her own marriage.
  • Adolescent pregnancy: Afghanistan has the highest maternal mortality rate in Asia, which is also closely associated with the devastating impact of child marriage on girls.

What has this country committed to?

Afghanistan has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. During its Voluntary National Review at the 2017 High Level Political Forum, the government highlighted that it is working to reduce the number of girls who marry before the legal age to 10% by 2030.

Afghanistan co-sponsored the 2013 and 2014 UN General Assembly resolutions on child, early and forced marriage.

Afghanistan ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1994, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 2003, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

Afghanistan is a member of the South Asian Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC) which adopted a regional action plan to end child marriage from 2015 – 2018.

Representatives of the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), including Afghanistan, asserted the Kathmandu Call to Action to End Child Marriage in Asia in 2014. As part of its commitment, Afghanistan will ensure access to legal remedies for child brides and establish a uniform minimum legal age of marriage of 18.

During its 2014 Universal Periodic Review, Afghanistan supported recommendations to revise legislation to ensure that legal ages of marriage in the Civil Law and in Shari’a regulations are in line with international standards.

What is the government doing to address this at the national level?

On 19 April 2017, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Ministry of Information and Culture launched a National Action Plan To Eliminate Early and Child Marriage. The plan was developed in partnership with UNFPA Afghanistan and followed several consultations with the international community.

As of 2018, Ministry of Education officials in Nangarhar are reportedly developing a pilot education programme for girls in three districts where they have identified a correlation between limited schooling and high rates of child marriage.

Following the Girl Summit in 2014, Afghanistan held a panel discussion on child marriage with UNICEF representatives organised by the British Embassy and the Afghan Institute of Higher Education.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

Under the Civil Code of the Republic of Afghanistan 1977, when a girl is below the age of 16, a marriage can be concluded with the permission of her father or a judge. There is no data available as to the minimum legal age of marriage once all exceptions have been taken into account in Afghanistan.


Afghan Women and Kids Education and Necessities, (accessed February 2018)

Afghan Women’s Network, Afghanistan CEDAW Shadow Report, 2012 (accessed February 2018)

Asia Foundation, What Factors Drive Child Marriage in Afghanistan?, [website], 2017, (accessed March 2018)

Central Statistics Organization and Afghanistan Ministry of Public Health, Afghanistan Demographic and Health Survey 2015, 2017, (accessed March 2018)

Government of Afghanistan, SDGs’ Progress Report Afghanistan, 2017, (accessed May 2018)

Human Rights Watch, Afghanistan: Ending Child Marriage and Domestic Violence, 2009, (accessed March 2018)

Human Rights Watch, “I Had To Run Away”: The Imprisonment of Women and Girls for “Moral Crimes” in Afghanistan, 2012, (accessed March 2018)

Human Rights Watch, “I Won’t Be a Doctor, and One Day You’ll Be Sick”: Girls’ Access to Education in Afghanistan, 2017, (accessed March 2018)

Norwegian Refugee Council and the Liaison Office, Listening to Women and Girls Displaced to Urban Afghanistan, 2015, (accessed March 2018)

South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children, [website], 2018, (accessed February 2018)

UNFPA Afghanistan, Child Marriage, [website], 2017, (accessed March 2018)

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Afghanistan, 2014, p.17, (accessed March 2018)

United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, (accessed February 2018)

World Bank, Maternal Mortality Ratio, [website], 2015, (accessed March 2018)

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)