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Child Marriage

A child bride A child bride

Child marriage is exactly that – when a child is married before age of 18. Globally, 15 million girls every year are forced into early marriages – that’s over 41,000 every day, or nearly 1 girl every 2 seconds.

The practice of child marriage violates girls’ human rights, limits their education, and harms their health. But despite being forbidden by international human rights laws and many national laws around the world, child marriage continues to rob millions of girls of their childhood.

A child bride

The facts on child marriage:

  • Every year, 15 million girls are married before the age of 18.
  • Early marriage often leads to early pregnancies. Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the second cause of death among 15 - 19 year-old girls globally.
  • In the 4 countries where child marriage is most common – Niger, Chad, Bangladesh and Central African Republic – more than 65% of girls are married by 18.
  • When a girl in the developing world receives 7 years of education, she is more likely to marry later and have fewer, yet healthier, children.

A vicious cycle

Many child marriages are considered forced because in most situations, girls do not give their free and full consent. But in many cultural contexts, early marriage of girls is standard practice. As a result, girls may appear to give consent to respect and obey the wishes of their families and their communities.

The consequences of early marriage go beyond the lives of young married girls themselves, ultimately affecting the next generation.

Child brides are almost always forced to drop out of school. This not only limits girls’ own future prospects, but also their ability to contribute to their countries’ broader social and economic goals. Children of young, uneducated mothers are less likely to have a good start to their own education, to do well in class, or to continue beyond the minimum schooling. Even worse, daughters of uneducated mothers are especially likely to drop out of school, marry young, and continue the cycle.

Girl holding a sign protesting child marriage.

Early pregnancy and health risks for child brides

Child marriage also has negative health consequences for girls. It increases girls’ risk of violence, abuse, and HIV infection. Early marriage often leads to early pregnancy as well and globally, pregnancy and childbirth are the second leading cause of death for girls aged 15 to 19.

Why child marriage?

Too often, the reason for child marriage is a combination of poverty, gender inequality and a lack of understanding or respect for children’s rights. These issues, coupled with a lack of access to education and entrenched social norms, cause child marriage to carry on. But, there’s a growing movement to end child marriage, and a critical part of the solution is education.

Education will help stop child marriage

We know that one of the best ways to combat child marriage is to keep girls in school. It’s proven that girls who receive a higher education are less likely to be married before age 18 than girls without an education. When a girl is educated, she will marry later, have fewer and healthier children, and earn a higher income.

So, what is Plan doing?

  • Engaging directly with individuals and groups within communities who are working to halt the practice of child marriage.
  • Ensuring children are registered at birth. Without registration, children can’t prove their legal age or claim protection under any legislation that exists in their country specifying a minimum age for marriage.
  • Supporting youth-led groups that raise awareness about children’s rights, including the right to not be forced into marriage at an early age.
  • Supporting children’s groups that work with community volunteers, legal systems, women’s groups, community-based organizations and local governments to promote the rights of children.
Help put a stop to child marriage!

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