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Girls & Women

Let girls be girls, not brides

The Problem

Every year,14 million girls are married before the age of 18. Child marriage is a global problem, which transcends cultures and religions. It occurs all over the world—in Latin America, the Middle East, South Asia and even Europe.

In the developing world, poverty and traditional gender roles magnify this problem.1 in 7 girls is married before age 15, and some child brides are married as young as 9 years old. In some countries, such as the Republic of Niger and the Central African Republic, 75% of girls marry before they are 18. In more than 20 countries, including Uganda, Burkina Faso, India and Nicaragua, the prevalence of child marriage is 40% or higher.

Child brides are vulnerable to sexual and psychological abuse. They are also more likely to live in poverty, remain illiterate and suffer from health problems due to premature pregnancy.  Girls become vulnerable to contracting HIV/AIDS and more likely to suffer from domestic violence.

Why are girls being married so young?

Families living in extreme poverty view their daughters as a financial burden. The younger girls are married off, the smaller the dowry a family has to pay to the groom’s family. In other communities where a ‘bride price’ is paid to the girl’s family, the money incentivizes families to arrange their daughter’s marriage at a young age.

Child marriage is a practice that has been happening for centuries, so cultural pressures persuade families to continue this custom. In these societies, girls are considered subordinate to boys. Families oftentimes believe that marrying their daughter at a young age is in her best interest.

This mentality is passed on from generation to generation. So, families do not recognize that keeping girls in school allows them to have a higher earning potential and make a greater contribution to the family.

In some instances, child marriage is decreed constitutional. The Iraqi government recently passed legislation on a newly proposed draft bill, known as the Jaafari Personal Status Bill, which allows men to marry girls as young as nine years old. Learn more here:

How can we stop this practice?

Education: Young girls who are child brides become trapped in the poverty cycle without access to education and employment opportunities.

Education is one of the most important ways to alter gender roles and practices that condone child marriage. When girls have improved access to primary and secondary education, and are able to stay in school, the age that they marry is significantly delayed. Girls are able to make informed, consensual decisions when they are ready. They can find a job, earn an income, and lift themselves out of poverty.

Take Action

Global Citizens must send the message to world leaders that child marriage is unacceptable regardless of the geographic or socio-economic context. We must hold policymakers accountable to ensure that women’s rights are prioritized in the new post-2015 development agenda.

Sign the pledge now to take a stance against child marriage.