Around the world, marriage is often idealized as ushering in love, happiness, and security. But for Sharon and other girls, getting married is often one of the worst things that can happen. Roughly one in three girls in the developing world marries before age 18; one in nine marries before turning 15.
Human Rights Watch investigations in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Malawi, Nepal, South Sudan, Tanzania, Yemen, and Zimbabwe have found that early marriage has dire life-long consequences—often completely halting or crippling a girl’s ability to realize a wide range of human rights. Leaving school early both contributes to, and results from, marrying young. Other impacts include marital rape, heightened risk of domestic violence, poor access to decent work, exploitation doing unpaid labor, risk of HIV transmission, and a range of health problems due to early childbearing.