Forced Marriage

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  • From the Middle East to Latin America, South Asia to Europe, child marriage is a global problem that cuts across countries, cultures, religions and ethnicities.
  • Niger has the highest rate of child marriage. Despite a slightly lower rate, the country with the highest number of child marriages is populous Bangladesh.
  • Over 700 million women alive today were married as children. That’s nearly 11 times the population of the UK!
  • In some countries, people believe marriage to an older man offers protection to young girls, but this is not born out in fact. In Bangladesh, 47% of married girls have experienced partner violence. Child brides are more likely to endure physical, emotional and sexual abuse, an indicator of slavery.
  • Not all child marriages amount to slavery. Child marriage constitutes slavery if the child has not genuinely given their free and informed consent, is subjected to control and a sense of “ownership,” particularly through abuse, threats, or exploitation, and cannot realistically leave or end the marriage.
  • If an adult suffers these experiences, it also amounts to forced marriage or slavery.
  • Banning marriage for those under the age of 18 is an important step in areas where the cultural practice of child marriage is deeply embedded, but it will take more than that. In Bangladesh child marriage has been illegal since 1929. The law was reinforced in 1984, but child marriage still happens on a large scale.
  • Despite the many challenges, child marriage is decreasing around the world. A report by UNICEF showed that the percentage of women married before the age of 18 dropped from 33% to 26% between 1985 and 2010.
  • The overall number for those under 15 is dropping at an even faster rate. In South Asia, the rate of girls married before 15 dropped from 32% to 17%.

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