4 reasons why girls are getting married as children

It shouldn’t surprise you that child marriage is a common practice in many countries, and one that disproportionately affects girls. Unfortunately, child marriage has been around for generations, and is widespread in some parts of the world. But the reasons why so many girls are married so young might surprise you the most. Here’s why:

A young girl wearing a yellow sari.

At 13, Aalia’s parents considered marrying her because they could not afford to keep her in school. But her mother opposed the marriage because she wanted her daughter to have more opportunities than she did.

  1. Because of gender discrimination. It’s true in many cultures that the younger a girl is when she’s married, the older her husband will be. Younger brides are often preferred because they’re considered more obedient and respectful of their husbands.
  2. Because of sexual violence and social stigma. Some girls are married early because their families believe marriage will protect their daughters from sexual violence, and protect the family’s honour from the social stigma associated with having unmarried daughters at home.
  3. For economic reasons. Too often, parents can’t afford to keep their daughters at home, but marriage provides the family with economic security (a dowry or a payment in exchange for their daughter’s hand). In fact, in some countries, the older a girl is when she marries, the lower the dowry is for her parents. Therefore, the younger the bride, the better the pay-off.
  4. Major limitations of the law. In too many countries, laws that protect girls from early marriage are either not enforced or completely ignored. In Pakistan, for example, nearly 80% of people we asked didn’t know the legal age for marriage. If no one knows, what’s stopping girls from becoming brides so young?

What we’re doing to prevent early marriage

Plan’s work to promote gender equality is entrenched in all of our work. Together, with the help of volunteers, parents, teachers and children, we work to increase awareness of children’s rights within the communities where we work. Additionally, we’re working to end early marriage by:

  • Advocating that governments keep the age of legal marriage at 18, and enforce laws that protect children from early marriage.
  • Promoting the importance of girls’ education to help ensure girls receive the skills they need to earn their own income and take hold of their own future.
  • Increasing access to sexual and reproductive health services for girls and boys.
  • Ensuring children are registered at birth so they can prove their legal age and claim protection under any legislation that specifies minimum age for marriage.
A young girl working on her homework

Amrita, 16, refused a marriage proposal because she knew marrying young would affect her health and hamper her education.

You can help prevent early marriage and ensure girls achieve their full potential. Through the Because I am a Girl project, help girls access their right to survival, an identity, and protection.

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