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Each year, childhood ends for an estimated 15 million girls around the world who marry before the age of 18, according to the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW). South Asia has the largest concentration of child brides, but early marriage is a global phenomenon.

Girls living in poverty are more susceptible, and by marrying so young, research shows, girls perpetuate the cycle of poverty. UNICEF says they typically drop out of school and as a result, face poor job prospects.

The Syrian war has created a vortex of conditions, such as displacement and poverty as well as fears about the so-called honour and safety of girls that have prompted families to marry off their daughters.

From the onset of the Syrian war in 2011 to the present, child marriage has spiked from 15 to 36 percent in the kingdom. European countries such as Sweden and Germany, that have welcomed large numbers of Syrian refugees, are also grappling with a dilemma: permit child marriage or separate families.

Child brides commonly face domestic violence, restricted movement and are often not given a voice when it comes to making decisions in the family. No matter the justifications families give, the ICRW says, child marriage is “a violation of human rights and a form of violence against girls”.

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