Child marriage has fallen by 15% in the last decade

Child marriage has fallen by 15% in the last decade

UNICEF has announced that the number of child marriages has declined significantly with 25 million being prevented in the last decade.

The prevalence has decreased globally by about 15%, today 1 in 5 women are married as children compared to 1 in 4 a decade ago. Approximately 650 million women alive today were married as children.

UNICEF reports that a key reason this significant global decline has occurred is due to notable progress in South Asia, which has seen the largest decline over the last decade. The risk of a girl marrying before her 18th birthday has declined from 50% to 30%.

South Asia’s significant decline is partly due to a dramatic shift in India. Increasing levels of female education, proactive government investment in adolescent females and strong public messages around illegality of child marriages has worked to change public opinion around the subject.

Anju Malhotra, UNICEF’s Principal Gender Advisor said:

“When a girl is forced to marry as a child, she faces immediate and lifelong consequences. Her odds of finishing school decrease while her odds of being abused by her husband and suffering complications during pregnancy increase. There are also huge societal consequences, and higher risk of intergenerational cycles of poverty”

The total number of girls married in childhood is now estimated at 12 million a year, 25 million fewer than there would have been under global levels 10 years ago. To end the practice of child marriage by 2030, as stated by the SDGs, progress must be accelerated. Without an acceleration, 150 million more girls will marry before their 18th Birthday in 2030.

The pressure is now mounting on sub-Saharan African countries to reduce levels of child marriage as progress needs to be rapidly driven to offset population growth. Of the most recently married child brides, almost 1 in 3 are from sub-Saharan Africa, compared to 1 in 5 a decade ago.

Anju Malhotra added:

“Each and every child marriage prevented gives another girl the chance to fulfill her potential… the world has pledged to end child marriage by 2030, we’re going to have to collectively redouble efforts to prevent millions of girls from having their childhoods stolen through this devastating practice.”


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Photo credit: UN Women

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