NPR

UNICEF's Good News About Child Marriage Isn't Quite As Good As It Sounds

A new report cites tremendous progress in bringing down rates of child marriage, especially in India. But critics raise concerns about some of the data points.
Durga, now 21, was married in her northern Indian village at the age of 15. Her father, who forced her into the marriage, has since had a change of heart and is striving to dissolve the union. Source: Swati Vashishtha for NPR

A report released this month by UNICEF has been cause for celebration in India, the country with the highest number of child marriages in South Asia each year. According to the newly released data, the annual number of child marriages in the country has dropped by nearly half in the last decade.

"India has seen an overall decline. A decade ago, 47 percent of all girls between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before they turned 18," said Dhuwarakha Sriram, child protection specialist at UNICEF India. "Now that number is down to 27 percent of girls, or about 1.5 million girls per year."

Because India's population is so great, the country's downward trend is being credited by UNICEF for significantly bringing down the global numbers of child marriage.

Authorities in India are congratulating themselves.

There are indeed reasons for optimism. Sriram believes

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