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Child, Early, and Forced Marriage

Each year, 12 million girls around the world are married before the age of 18. Early marriage remains widespread, though its prevalence has decreased worldwide in the past decade —from one in four girls 10 years ago to approximately one in five today – and progress is threatened by global emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic.

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01 Child, early, and forced marriage is associated with multiple harms

Child marriage or informal partnership:

  • Restricts girls’ opportunities, leading to lower educational attainment and fewer economic opportunities
  • Puts girls at increased risk of sexual, physical, and psychological violence from their partners and their partners’ families
  • Makes girls more vulnerable to intimate partner violence: globally, girls married before the age of 15 are almost 50 percent more likely to experience either physical or sexual intimate partner violence than those married after they turn 18
  • Is associated with poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes, poor mental health, and death by femicide or suicide
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02 Social factors drive child marriage

Child marriage is driven and exacerbated by:

  • Gender inequality and the lower value placed on girls in some settings
  • Norms that link family honour to girls’ sexual purity and the perception that marriage can protect family honour by avoiding ‘defilement’ and rumours
  • Poverty, insecurity, and conflict

Child marriage tends to increase during and immediately after crises.

03 Systemic shifts are needed to end child marriage

Ending child, early, and forced marriage involves:

  • Supporting and empowering girls
  • Relieving poverty
  • Shifting harmful norms
  • Developing supportive laws and services
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