Press Release

11 October 2012

142 Million Girls Could Be Married before 18 in the Next Decade, Warns New Report

Despite efforts to decrease the practice, report shows the frequency of child marriage has remained level over the last decade

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  • By 2030, the number of child brides marrying each year will have grown from 14.2 million in 2010 to 15.1 million, that is over 14 per cent if current trends continue
  • One in three girls in developing countries (excluding China) will be married before 18

UNITED NATIONS, New York—If current trends continue, the number of girl child marriages will increase dramatically over the next 10 years, according to Marrying too Young: End Child Marriage, a new report released today by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, on the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child. The report also finds that, despite laws to prevent its practice, child marriage has remained mostly constant in developing countries over the past decade.

“No social, cultural or religious rationale for child marriage can possibly justify the damage these marriages do to young girls and their potential,” said UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. “A girl should have the right to choose whom she marries and when. Since many parents and communities also want the very best for their daughters, we must work together to end child marriage. It is the only course by which we can avert what otherwise is the human tragedy of child marriage.”

 "Ending child marriage"- High-level panel discussion

In 2010, 158 countries reported that 18 years was the minimum legal age for marriage for women without parental consent or approval by a pertinent authority. Still, in 2010, one in three girls, or 67 million girls, were married before their 18th birthday in developing countries (excluding China). Half of these child marriages took place in Asia, with another one fifth in sub-Saharan Africa. But the practice is also widespread in some communities in Latin America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

Progress has been made, and the report finds that child marriage has declined in some developing countries, including Armenia, Bolivia, Ethiopia and Nepal, among other countries.

“Child marriage is an appalling violation of human rights and robs girls of their education, health and long-term prospects,” said Dr. Osotimehin. “Marriage for girls can lead to complications of pregnancy and childbirth—the main causes of death among 15-19-year-old girls in developing countries.”

Marrying too Young: End Child Marriage finds that girls who are poor, have little or no education and live in rural areas are most likely to marry or enter child marriages. Girls living in rural areas of the developing world are twice as likely to enter marriage before 18 as their urban counterparts, and girls with no education are over three times more likely to do so than those with secondary or higher education. Girls’ vulnerability to child marriage substantially increases during humanitarian crises.

“When I was 14, I was pressured into getting married, but I knew this was not good for my health or future. The girls in my village who got married young stopped going to school and some even died giving birth,” said Salamatou Aghali Issoufa, a young woman from Niger who was able to convince her parents to delay her marriage. “I wanted to stay in school and become a midwife.”

The report calls on governments and leaders to end child marriage by:

  • Enacting and enforcing national laws that raise the age of marriage to 18, for both girls and boys.
  • Using data to identify and target geographic “hotspots” – areas with high proportions and numbers of girls at risk of child marriage.
  • Expanding prevention programmes that empower girls at risk of child marriage and address the root causes underlying the practice.
  • Mitigating the harmful impact of child marriage on girls.

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UNFPA works to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.

For more information or interview requests, please contact:
Mandy Kibel, +1 212 297 5293, kibel@unfpa.org; or
Omar Gharzeddine, +1 212 297 5028, gharzeddine@unfpa.org

For the full report and other resources, please visit:
www.unfpa.org