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BBC takes a closer look at what ‘child bride’ means

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Summary of story from the BBC News, October 4, 2011

Around 10 million girls a year are married before the age of 18 across the world, according to a recent report from the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF).

And about 14 million girls aged between 15 and 19 give birth each year.

Girls in this age group are twice as likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth as women in their 20s.

The top four countries with the highest proportion of child brides are Niger, Chad, Mali and Bangladesh.

And some 40 per cent of underage unions take place in India, despite the practice being illegal and punishable with a fine of £1,300 and two years in prison for anyone who ‘performs, conducts or negligently fails to prevent’ a child marriage.

BBC presenter Nel Hedayat spoke to former child brides in India and Bangladesh for the BBC Three documentary: The Truth About Child Brides.

She discovered in Bangladesh that young girls are married off soon after reaching puberty, like 14-year-old Seema who married and moved in with her 19-year-old husband a year ago.

“After marriage, what is my work now? Washing dishes, cleaning the floor, washing clothes and cooking,” she said.

Seema is now four months pregnant and overwhelmed. “Before I was a kid, and now I’m having a kid. Of course it’s scary.”

A number of wives interviewed also revealed they resented having been denied the opportunity to be educated (see WVoN coverage).

“Had I been married later, I’d have learned to read and write,” says another bride, Rukhmani. “If I’d studied, I wouldn’t have had to work in the scorching heat, harvesting in the fields.”

And according to a study by The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), girls in some Indian states who were married before 18, were twice as likely to report being beaten, slapped or threatened by their husbands than girls who married later.

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