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Help end child marriage


UNFPA, awareness campaign, Valentine's Day, Say IDONT, end child marriage, 7 little-known facts, child marriage, Globally, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among adolescent girls.

Valentine’s Day is celebrated as a time of romance. Yet for millions, fairy tales of love and marriage are just that – fiction. Hundreds of millions of women and girls alive today were married off while still children. Many were exposed to violence, forced from school and pushed into premature parenthood.

Child marriage is a tragedy for the individuals it ensnares – often the most vulnerable, impoverished and marginalised girls.

But it is also bad for communities and societies as a whole, locking child brides and their families in a cycle of poverty that can persist across generations.

Ending child marriage would enabling girls to finish school, delay motherhood, find decent work and fulfil their potential.

This year, for Valentine’s Day, the United Nations Population Fund, (UNFPA), is calling on the world to prioritise ending child marriage.

Here are seven little-known facts about child marriage.

Better awareness of the problem, its pervasiveness across the world, and its consequences, may help leaders – as well as young people themselves – end the practice once and for all.

1 – Child marriage is common. It takes place in every corner of the world. More than 650 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday. Globally, 21 per cent of young women, 20-24 years old, were child brides. And while child marriage is most prevalent in low- and middle-income countries, it also takes place in high-income countries.

2 – Progress is being made – but not enough. First, the good news: Global child marriage rates are slowly falling. Around 2000, one in three women between the ages of 20 and 24 reported they had been married as children. In 2017, this number was just over one in five.

But there is also bad news: Unless such efforts are accelerated, reductions in the number of girls being married off will not keep pace with population growth.

3 – The cost of ending child marriage is surprisingly affordable.

4 – Both boys and girls may be married off as children – but girls are much more vulnerable to the practice.
Boys can be – and are – married off as children. UNFPA figures evaluating data from 82 low- and middle-income countries show that 1 in 25 boys, or 3.8 per cent, marry before age 18.

Yet there are harms that accrue to girls much more frequently than to boys.

Studies show child brides are especially at risk of violence – from their spouses, in-laws, or even from their own families.

And child brides are also more likely to become pregnant before their bodies are mature, increasing the risk of serious complications.

And girls are much more likely to be married off when they are very young. While the majority of child marriages take place among 16- and 17-year-olds, there are many countries where girls are commonly married at or before age 15. Among boys, these very early marriages are 0.3 per cent.

5 – Child marriage is almost universally banned.

Two of the most broadly endorsed human rights agreements in the world, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, prohibit child marriage. Together, these treaties have been signed or ratified by every country except one.

Yet around the world, there are national or local laws that enable different interpretations of this agreed principle. Many countries permit child marriage to take place with parental consent or under religious or customary law, for example.

Even in places where child marriage is clearly illegal, enforcement can be a problem. Around the world, many marriages are not legally registered, for example.

6 – Child marriage and teen pregnancy are closely – and dangerously – linked.

Child marriage is often a precursor to early pregnancy. In developing countries, 9 out of 10 adolescent births take place among girls who are already married. These early pregnancies pose serious health risks to girls whose bodies may not be developed enough for motherhood.

Globally, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among adolescent girls.

7 – Empowering girls is critical to ending child marriage.

Many changes are required to end child marriage, including strengthening and enforcing laws against the practice, advancing gender equality and ensuring community commitment to girls’ rights.

But young people must also be empowered to know and claim their rights. This means they must be given accurate information about their sexual and reproductive health, opportunities for education and skills development, and platforms for participation and engagement in community and civic life.

UNFPA works with partners and communities around the world to educate and empower girls, and to raise awareness in communities about the dangers of child marriage.

Many of these girls have become advocates in their own right.

In Zambia, Linda learned about her rights at a UNFPA-supported safe space for girls.

Speaking in an interview when she was 12, Linda said: “I see a lot of girls get married early, and soon afterwards become pregnant or become infected with HIV. This should not be happening in our communities because girls should be in school and working hard to become teachers, doctors and lawyers and any other career goals they want to achieve.”

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