Child marriage is a substantial issue in many parts of the world. In 2018, a UNICEF report estimated there were 650 million child brides worldwide. That statistic includes girls under the age of 18 who were already married and adult women who married in childhood.1
Getting married as a child subjects girls to mental and physical danger. Often, child brides are raped and abused, and they often give birth in their early teenage years. Since many of these girls suffer from malnutrition, the stress of childbirth threatens their lives and the lives of their babies. Girls who give birth at a young age can face a host of complications, including miscarriage, obstetric fistula—and death.2
“Complications of pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death in young women aged 15–19. Young girls who marry later and delay pregnancy beyond their adolescence have more chances to stay healthier, to better their education and build a better life for themselves and their families.”3Dr. Flavia Bustreo, leader in the World Health Organization’s Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.
Ending child marriage has been a goal for many organizations for decades, so why is it still so prevalent in the world today? Here are a few factors:
Poverty – When a family is living in severe poverty, the idea of having one less mouth to feed is extremely appealing.
Culture – There are deep-rooted traditions and attitudes in some cultures that view girls as lower-class citizens with little to no value. Some cultures have the perception that marriage will provide protection for girls.
Education – When parents do not educate their daughters, they fail to recognize their daughters’ potential to earn income in the future. They don’t allow these girls to build on their hopes and dreams.
Ridhima, who was married as a child bride at only 12 years old, is an example of the impact of child marriage.4 She became pregnant a few months later. Her in-laws told her that as a pregnant girl she needed to work hard around the house to remain healthy. She lifted heavy objects and worked hard to appease them. During this time, Ridhima faced physical abuse from her husband, who was an alcoholic. Even when Ridhima’s doctor ordered her to rest, her mother-in-law forced her to keep working. When the time came for Ridhima to give birth, the doctor performed a c-section but found the baby was dead. Her in-laws were quick to blame her.
Ridhima’s story is played out over and over again. Save the Children recently made a startling prediction of a dramatic surge in child marriage and adolescent pregnancy: Within five years, 2.5 million more girls could be at risk of child marriage, and in 2020 alone, teen pregnancies may have risen by up to 1 million.5 Ridhima represents just one person in these concerning child marriage statistics, but there is hope.
What is the solution?
Legislation – Call on governments to remove exceptions to the legal marrying age. Presently, 134 countries allow for child marriage as long as a parent, judge or authority approves it.
Educate Parents – It is vital to change the mindset of parents and authorities regarding girls and early marriage through education. When studying the history of child marriage, it is easy to spot the cultural aspect of the issue. Over time, we can help people understand that girls are more than just a womb. Girls and women can be active and beneficial members of a community.
Promote Education for Girls – Providing education for girls helps them avoid the trap of child marriage. At school, girls acquire skills and knowledge, and their families are more likely to see the possibility of higher education and attractive career options. “Depriving girls of education, especially secondary school education, has dramatic costs for girls themselves, their families, communities and societies,” says a report from Malala Fund. “These include greater rates of poverty, higher rates of child marriage, increased fertility rates, and reduced engagement in personal, familial and community decision making.”6 Additionally, through education, girls can learn about the dangers of child marriage.
Create Safe Environments – Safe environments like schools, churches, community centers and clubs often provide a safe place for girls to learn. In such places, girls are under the watchful eyes of caring adults, and girls often find advocates in these safe environments.
Care – Organizations and governments can provide justice and compassionate care to victims of child marriage.
GFA missionaries are committed to helping keep girls from becoming child brides. Through various programs, caring adults are involved in the lives of families and teaching them that there are better options than child marriage.
Will you join us? Your $35 per month sponsorship of a child helps that child, their family and their community break the cycle of poverty, which helps prevent child marriage. Through GFA programs, children have caring adults who believe in their potential. They feel loved, wanted and hopeful!Learn more about countries with child labor
1 “Child Marriage: Latest trends and future prospects.” UNICEF. https://data.unicef.org/resources/child-marriage-latest-trends-and-future-prospects/. July 2018.
2 Edwards, Jess, and Gabrielle Szabo. Save the Children: The Global Girlhood Report 2020. https://www.savethechildren.org/content/dam/usa/reports/ed-cp/global-girlhood-report-2020.pdf. 2020.
3 “Child marriages-39,000 ever day: More than 140 million girls will marry between 2011 and 2020.” World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news/item/07-03-2013-child-marriages-39-000-every-day-more-than-140-million-girls-will-marry-between-2011-and-2020. March 7, 2013.
4 “Why Her Daughter Won’t Get Married at Age 12.” Gospel for Asia. REJOICE!. https://gfa-newsletter.ca/issue/11/5/why-her-daughter-wont-get-married-age-12/. August 2015.
5 Edwards, Jess, and Gabrielle Szabo. Save the Children: The Global Girlhood Report 2020. https://www.savethechildren.org/content/dam/usa/reports/ed-cp/global-girlhood-report-2020.pdf. 2020.
6 “Cost of Not Educating Girls.” Malala Fund. https://www.malala.org/newsroom/archive/cost-of-not-educating-girls. July 15, 2018.