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Child marriage is defined as the marriage of a girl or boy before the age of 18 and refers to both formal marriages and informal unions where children live with a partner as if married. While child marriage takes place in practically every region of the world, it occurs at higher rates in South Asia (46%), sub-Saharan Africa (37%), and Latin America and the Caribbean (29%).Although boys are vulnerable, the practice affects girls in much larger numbers, violating their right to a healthy, productive life and self-determination.
Girls who are married early typically stop going to school and are unlikely to develop employable skills, limiting their future economic opportunities and personal development, thus contributing to the perpetuation of the practice. Due to the difference in age and maturity with their typically adult partners, child brides are also at greater risk of experiencing violence, abuse and exploitation, because they are less able to negotiate sexual relationships than older women, nor the use of contraceptives, making them vulnerable to unwanted and frequent pregnancies and to sexually transmitted infections. Early pregnancy also leads to many other health problems, including birth complications and death during delivery, jeopardizing the health of both young mothers and their babies. In addition, child mothers are typically less well-informed than adult mothers of positive parenting techniques to feed and to care for their children, resulting in increased stunting, wasting or underweight conditions.
UNICEF supports governments and civil society to carry out integrated programmes for the elimination of child marriage based on promising programme experiences and social science evidence. Fundamentally, programmes and policies aim to be culturally sensitive, recognizing that marriage is seen as a private matter and a cherished tradition in many cultures. Simultaneously, they facilitate community-wide discussions to expose families and the public at large to the harms associated with the practice and to human rights principles. This has resulted in community-wide decisions to support girls to delay marriage and respect their
Ending child marriage requires government commitment to enact policy and legal reforms specifically on child marriage as well as on related issues of gender discrimination. It also requires that governments facilitate national dialogue toward changing social norms that uphold the practice. Strengthening social and educational services is crucial to providing viable alternatives to marriage for girls as well as services for girls and women who are already married or pregnant, as well as engaging adolescents and young people in discussions for the abandonment of the practice.
Designed and animated by UVPHACTORY
Scott Sindorf and DamijanSaccio, principals
Music composed by Bix Sigurdsson