15 million girls under 18 are married off every year throughout the globe. Some are only eight years old. In total, this means that by 2020, 140 million women will have been married off before 18. It’s 140 millions futures shattered, but also 140 million missed opportunities for the world, as child marriage impacts the economic development of societies.
From the Americas to Asia, underaged marriage is a global issue. Even though 192 countries have laws stipulating a minimum age for marriage, studies show that the practice exists in 117 states, largely due to loopholes and tradition.
In addition, six countries have no laws at all to prevent under-18s from tying the knot: Equatorial Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen.
Child marriage around the world
Asia and Africa have the highest rates of early marriage, with large disparities between countries. African nations account for 17 of the 20 countries with the highest rates of child brides globally. In Niger, 76% of girls are married before they turn 18. In Malawi, it’s 42%.
Yet child marriage should not be associated with the Global South. It happens on our very doorstep, in countries like the United-States where New Hampshire allows girls as young as 13 to be married, providing their parents and a judge agree.
Towards the end of child marriage
In addition to effective NGO and local government programmes on the grounds, steps have been taking at national and international levels to make child marriage a thing of the past.
- In July 2017 Honduras voted unanimously for the legal age for marriage to be set at 18 years old, without exception.
- The African Union’s 50-year plan for development recognises that child marriage is a major impediment to regional development and prosperity. But they haven’t gone as far as taking measures to change the law.
- An October 2017 Supreme Court ruling in India ruled that sex with a minor, including a married one, amounts to rape.
- Until June 2017, in New York teenagers could get married when they turned 14, providing they had parental and court permission. The limit is now 17.
The Brides do Good movement to #endchildmarriage
Only a united effort from governments, educators, communities and families can end child marriage.
At Brides do Good, we donate up to 2/3 from the sale of each wedding dress to fund our charity partners Plan International and Too Young to Wed’s programmes against child marriage. Their initiatives address both the causes and consequences of child marriage.
- Educate. Girls with a better education tend to marry later. Plan International informs families and men too because much of the problem stems from long-held ideas about the value of women in the community.
- Empower girls with economic support networks and incentives.
- Heal the emotional and physical scars with better access to healthcare and information about the dangers child brides are exposed to.
- Lobby government bodies to make the right changes.