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What is the impact of Child Marriage:

Conflict and humanitarian crises

Key Information

9/10

9 out of 10 countries with the highest child marriage rates are fragile or extremely fragile states

65%

In Yemen, child marriage rates have increased from 50% to 65% since the conflict started.

68%

The percentage of girls married before 18 in Chad and the Central African Republic, two fragile states with frequent crises and large refugee and internally displaced populations.

Photo credit: European Commission - ECHO

Key Information

9/10

9 out of 10 countries with the highest child marriage rates are fragile or extremely fragile states

65%

In Yemen, child marriage rates have increased from 50% to 65% since the conflict started.

68%

The percentage of girls married before 18 in Chad and the Central African Republic, two fragile states with frequent crises and large refugee and internally displaced populations.

Girls are more vulnerable to child marriage in humanitarian crises

Millions of lives are torn apart by conflict, displacement and natural disasters. But girls are hit particularly hard. Persisting gender inequality, increased poverty and insecurity, as well as lack of education put them at greater risk of child marriage in those times.

Parents see child marriage as a way to relieve economic difficulties

Poor families who lose their jobs or their lands during a crisis can see child marriage as a way out of poverty. Marriage reduces the number of mouths to feed, and can even provide extra income if there is a bride price. 

Parents believe that child marriage will protect girls from violence

During a crisis, girls are often more at risk of physical or sexual assault. Displaced from their homes, they see their social networks disappear and lose access to protection.

Some parents view marriage as a way to keep them safe or protect their virginity – and the family’s honour. They are often unaware of the violence that girls will face within marriage.

For example, child marriage is the most common form of violence reported by young Sudanese and Central African refugee girls.

Child marriage is used as a weapon of war

Girls and women are often used as “weapons” of war in conflict, abused or sold into prostitution under the guise of “marriage”.

In Iraq and Syria, terrorist groups have abducted Yazidi girls to be sold into marriage. In Somalia and Nigeria, girls were abducted from school and forced to marry fighters of the Islamist armed group al-Shabaab.

The links between child marriage and natural disasters

Floods and droughts disrupt girls’ lives. They threaten their access to school and push their families into poverty – thus adding to the risk of child marriage.

In Bangladesh and northeast India, floods made poverty worse and closed schools, leading families to see marriage as an alternative for their daughter.

In Somaliland and Mozambique, drought pushes families to marry off their daughters so they no longer have to feed them.

We must do more to protect girls during humanitarian settings

  • Involve girls at risk and girls who are married from the beginning, and make sure programmes meet their needs.
  • Incorporate child marriage as a key issue into other aspects of a humanitarian response.
  • Offer alternatives to marriage by providing safe spaces and services to girls, and work with communities to change norms around child marriage.
  • Evaluate programmes on child marriage. Invest in research to understand how to adapt solutions to the local context.
  • Child marriage is caused by factors – poverty, gender inequality, insecurity – that worsen in times of crisis. To offer a long term solution to child marriage, humanitarian and development efforts must complement each other.

For more information, download our brief on child marriage and humanitarian settings.

Related Sustainable Development Goals

 

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Sources

Featured stats

  • Burkina Faso, Bangladesh, Chad, Central African Republic, Guinea, Mali, Mozambique, Niger and South Sudan are listed as fragile states as defined by OECD. See definition in States of Fragility 2016: understanding violence, 2016.
  • UNICEF, Falling through the cracks. The Children of Yemen, 2017.
  • UNICEF, A Study on Early Marriage in Jordan, 2014.

Conflict

  • UNFPA, State of the World Population 2015, Shelter for the storm: a transformative agenda for women and girls in a crisis-prone world, 2015.
  • Human Rights Watch, No place for children: child recruitment, forced marriage, and attacks on schools in Somalia.

Displacement

  • UNHCR, 2016 Annual report on SGBV incidents among refugees in Chad.
  • UNICEF, A Study on Early Marriage in Jordan, 2014.

Natural disasters

  • Human Rights Watch, Marry before your house is sept away: child marriage in Bangladesh, 2015; Girls Not Brides, “How is climate change driving child marriage?” 2017; R.Mohan, “Trouble Waters: child brides in flood-ravaged Assam, India” Aljazeera America, December 19, 2014.
  • Conversation with CARE International UK – the relation between drought and child marriage has been explored during a rapid assessment carried out by CARE in the region in 2016.