Child marriage and health

Child marriage has devastating consequences for girls' health. Explore here key facts and insights on the links between child marriage and adolescent pregnancy, gender-based violence, female genital mutilation/cutting, HIV and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Photo: Pippa Ranger/Department for International Development (DFID)

Links between child marriage and health

Adolescent pregnancy

Child marriage is both a cause and consequence of adolescent pregnancy: 90% of adolescent births in the developing world are to girls who are already married or in a union. In many cases, child marriage is a driver of early pregnancy; in others – particularly where sex outside of marriage is taboo –unintended pregnancy drives child marriage.

Gender-based violence

Around 1 in 3 women and girls experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. Child marriage is a manifestation of this violence, putting women and girls at increased risk of sexual, physical, and psychological violence and related outcomes – like poor health and depression –throughout their lives.


Adolescent girls are disproportionately affected by HIV. Globally, 3 in 5 new infections among 15- to 24-year-olds concern girls and young women. Some of the factors which put girls at risk of HIV are the same as those that put them at risk of child marriage.

Female genital mutilation/cutting

Child marriage and FGM/C are both human rights violations and harmful practices. Both are driven by gender norms linked to controlling women and girls’ sexuality, and maintaining social and religious norms. FGM/C can be a precursor to child marriage.

Insights for prioritising adolescent girls' health

Married and unmarried girls have multiple, interlinked health needs. These need to be met in a comprehensive, multi-sectoral way. Successful approaches combine demand generation at the community and individual level with the provision of youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health care.

Girls' health and the SDGs

Governments across the world have committed to achieving 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The goals seek to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure we can all enjoy peace and prosperity. Goal 3 includes targets on good health and wellbeing, which will not be met unless we address child marriage.

Find others working on child marriage and health

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Member directory

Use our directory to find Girls Not Brides member organisations working on issues related to child marriage and health. You can contact organisations in your country or across the world to share best practice and learnings.

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