Each year, 15 million girls are married before the age of 18. That is 28 girls every minute – married off too soon, endangering their personal development and wellbeing. With more young people on our planet than ever before, child marriage is a human rights violation that we must end to achieve a fairer future for all. Child brides face huge challenges as a result of being married as children. Isolated, often with their freedom curtailed, girls frequently feel disempowered and are deprived of their fundamental rights to health, education, and safety. Neither physically nor emotionally ready to become wives and mothers, child brides are at greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications in pregnancy and childbirth, contracting HIV/AIDS and suffering domestic violence. With little access to education and economic opportunities, they and their families are more likely to live in poverty. Communities and nations also feel the impact: systems that undervalue the contribution and participation of girls and women limit their own possibilities for growth, stability, and transformation.
In recent years child marriage has gained increasing prominence on international and national development agendas. Today, we have a unique opportunity to act on this momentum and accelerate our efforts to help change the lives of girls and young women all over the world. Ending child marriage requires work across all sectors and at all levels. It requires us to understand the complex drivers behind the practice in different contexts and adapt our interventions accordingly. Ending child marriage also requires increased, targeted investments from both international donors and governments in high prevalence countries. The funding that is currently available is nowhere near large enough to match the scale of child marriage worldwide.
Laws that set a minimum age of marriage are an important way to safeguard boys and girls from being married before they are ready. It is important that children are recognised in the law as being children and that they are accorded the full protection of the law. Governments need to have clear and consistent legislation that establishes 18 as the minimum age of marriage. Adequate safeguards must be in place to ensure that parental consent or other exceptions are not used to force girls into marriage. The existence of laws that set a minimum age for marriage is an important tool that helps those working to dissuade families and communities from marrying off their daughters as children.
We are a registered Non-Government Organization (NGO) in Delhi.