Child marriage

Child marriage

Child marriage is defined as a marriage of a girl or boy before the age of 18 and refers to both formal marriages and informal unions in which children under the age of 18 live with a partner, as if married. This can for example be an religious marriage or living arrangements which practically means that the persons are married. If only one of the persons in the marriage is under 18, we speak of a child marriage.  

Child marriage affects both girls and boys, but it affects girls disproportionately. Child marriage usually happens because of a combination between economic and social factors. This is for example if a family can’t afford to take care of a girl that they force her to get married at a young age, so they do not have to take care of here anymore. Or in some cultures and/or religions it is customary that girls get married before a certain age.  

It is a worldwide phenomenon, in Sub-Sharan Africa and South Asia are the regions that has the highest rates of child marriage in the world, but also in North America are a lot of children getting married before they are 18 years old.  Globally, the rates of child marriage are slowly declining but progress isn't happening fast enough.

  • Children’s rights: indirectly: art. 3, 6,12,19 UN CRC  
  • Sustainable Development Goals: SDG 5

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Child marriage

What is the problem with child marriage?
Child marriage violates children’s rights to health, education and opportunity and places them at high risk of violence, exploitation, and abuse. It exposes children to violence throughout their lives, and traps them in a cycle of poverty. Next to this, children are mostly not asked for their opinions about if they want to get married or to whom. This violates their right to choose.  Here’s some facts about child marriage:   

  • Across the globe, levels of child marriage are highest in sub-Saharan Africa, where around 4 in 10 young women were married before age 18, followed by South Asia, where 3 in 10 were married before age 18
  • Lower levels of child marriage are found in Latin America and Caribbean (25 per cent), the Middle East and North Africa (17 per cent), and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (11 per cent)
  • Globally, 115 million boys and men were married before age 18.[3]  

Why is child marriage an important issue for children?
It is important to fight against child marriage since it has a negative impact on the growth, health, mental and emotional development, and education opportunities of children. It also reinforces a cycle of poverty and gender discrimination, illiteracy and malnutrition, as well as high infant and maternal mortality rates.   Child marriage afflicts both boys and girls, but girls are affected in much larger numbers and with greater intensity. It also happens more in rural than in urban areas. The ones the suffer from it more are girls from poorer families and with lower education levels. The main consequences are that usually the children are more likely to drop out of school, have a low-paid job (if they even have one) and limited decision-making power at home. Moreover, they face violence, abuse and exposure to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.  

What can you do against child marriage?

  • Set up clubs
    Organize clubs for girls at your school or in your community. This could be a platform to educate them on their rights, to keep an eye out for each other and to inform other girls what they should do if they fear that they are being forced to get married.
  • Organize debate evening
    Many parents are not aware of the negative consequences of child marriage and marry of their daughters because it is common in their community. Organize a debate evening in your community so the children and parents can debate about this topic and get informed.
  • Change the law
    Look up the law in your country about the legal age to get married. Is it lower then 18, let’s take action! Organize a protest, make a petition or write letters to the people in the government. 
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