Child Marriage is defined as a marriage of a girl or boy before the age of 18 and refers to both formal marriages and informal unions in which children under the age of 18 live with a partner as if married. Child marriage affects both girls and boys, but it affects girls disproportionately, especially in South Asia. According to UNICEF, early marriage and forced marriage is most common in Sub-Saharan Africa where 38% of girls become child brides. Among girls growing up in South Asia, 30% experience early marriage, compared with 25%
in Latin America and the Caribbean. Rates are 17% in the Middle East and North Africa, and 11% in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, however, child, early and forced marriage occur throughout the world, in both high- and low-income countries. The practice of child marriage is a violation of girls’ human rights.
The reasons behind child marriage are complex, but some root causes include discriminatory gender norms, inadequate laws, trafficking, poverty and the belief that marriage will protect girls from sexual assault or harassment. Child and forced marriage hinders the ability to exercise the right to choose who, if, and when to marry, limits education, leads to early and more frequent childbirth and puts girls at a heightened risk of experiencing violence, food insecurity, fewer economic opportunities and social isolation, health complications such as obstetric fistula and other pregnancy complications or sexually transmitted diseases.