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What is child marriage?

Child/Early marriage refers to any marriage of a child younger than 18 years old, in accordance to Article 1 of the Convention on the Right of the Child. While child marriage affects both sexes, girls are dis ro ortionately affected as they are the ma!ority of the victims. "heir overall develo ment is com romised, leaving them socially isolated #ith little education, s$ills and o ortunities for em loyment and self%realisation. "his leaves child brides more vulnerable to overty, a conse&uence of child marriage as #ell as a cause. Child marriage is no# #idely recognised as a violation of children's rights, a direct form of discrimination against the girl child #ho as a result of the ractice is often de rived of her basic rights to health, education, develo ment and e&uality. "radition, religion and overty continue to fuel the ractice of child marriage, des ite its strong association #ith adverse re roductive health outcomes and the lac$ of education of girls.

Child and forced marriage

A forced marriage is defined as a marriage (conducted #ithout the valid consent of one or both arties and is a marriage in #hich duress % #hether hysical or emotional % is a factor( )1*. FORWARD believes that any child marriage constitutes a forced marriage, in recognition that even if a child a ears to give their consent, anyone under the age of 18 is not able to ma$e a fully informed choice #hether or not to marry. Child marriages must be vie#ed #ithin a context of force and coercion, involving ressure and emotional blac$mail and children that lac$ the choice or ca acity to give their full consent.

Where does Child marriage occur?

+,-RCE. -/0CE1, 2334 )2*

"he ma above sho#s the countries in the #orld #here child marriage is racticed and gives an indication of the ercentage of girls affected by child marriage in each country. Child marriage is a #orld#ide henomenon but is most revalent in Africa and +outhern Asia and although its ractice has decreased some#hat in recent decades, it remains common in, although not only confined to, rural areas and among the most overty stric$en )5*. 0t is redicted by the -/16A that #orld#ide 133 million girls are ex ected to marry in the next decade )7*. 0n Africa, -/0CE1 estimate that 72 er cent of girls are married before the age of 18 and in some African countries the figure is much higher, such as in /iger #here there is a 89 er cent incidence of child marriage )4*. "he age at #hich children are married also varies bet#een countries but marriage before the age of 14 is not uncommon and in some areas of West Africa and in Ethio ia, girls are sometimes married as early as age 8 )9*.

Why does child marriage occur?

Poverty and economic transactions
6overty is a critical factor contributing to child marriage and a common reason #hy arents may encourage a child to marry. Where overty is acute, a young girl may be regarded as an economic burden and her marriage to a much older % sometimes even elderly % man is believed to benefit the child and her family both financially and socially. 0n communities #here child marriage is racticed marriage is regarded as a transaction, often re resenting a significant economic activity for a family. A daughter may be the only commodity a family has left to be traded and sometimes girls can be used as currency or to settle debts. A girl's marriage may also ta$e lace as a erceived means of creating stability. 0n uncertain times, oor harvest conditions or #ar, a family may believe it is necessary to ensure the economical 'safety' of their daughter and family, through marriage. 0n Africa the monetary value of bride rice, or bride #ealth, is lin$ed #ith marriage. :ride rice is a sum, either in cash or $ind, used to urchase a bride for her labour and fertility. 0n the context of overty, the ractice of aying bride rice can encourage early marriage. ;oung girls, a resource #ith #hich their arents can attain greater #ealth, are married off a young age, for the bride rice and also as a #ay for arents to lessen their economic burdens.

Notions of morality and honour

<ominant notions of morality and honour are im ortant factors encouraging the ractice of child marriage. "hese are influenced great by the im ortance laced on maintaining 'family honour' and the high value laced on a girl's virginity. 0t is considered that shame #ould be cast on a family if a girl #as not a virgin #hen she marries. "herefore, in order to ensure that a girl's virtue remains in tact, girls may be married earlier, in order to ensure their virginity. ;oung girls may also be encouraged to marry older men, due to the erce tion that an older husband #ill be able to act as a guardian against behaviour deemed immoral and ina ro riate.

What are the consequences of child marriage?

"here are numerous detrimental conse&uences associated #ith Child marriage, #ith hysical, develo mental, sychological and social im lications.

Physical consequences
When a child bride is married she is li$ely to be forced into sexual activity #ith her husband, and at an age #here the bride is not hysically and sexually mature this has severe health conse&uences. Child brides are li$ely to become regnant at an early age and there is a strong correlation bet#een the age of a mother and maternal mortality. =irls ages l3%17 are five times more li$ely to die in regnancy or childbirth than #omen aged 23%27 and girls aged 14%1> are t#ice as li$ely to die )8*. ;oung mothers face higher ris$s during regnancies including com lications such as heavy bleeding, fistula, infection, anaemia, and eclam sia #hich contribute to higher mortality rates of both mother and child. At a young age a girl has not develo ed fully and her body may strain under the effort of child birth, #hich can result in obstructed labour and obstetric fistula. ,bstetric fistula can also be caused by the early sexual relations associated #ith child marriage, #hich ta$e lace sometimes even before menarche. =ood renatal care reduces the ris$ of childbirth com lications, but in many instances, due to the limited autonomy or freedom of movement, young #ives are not able to negotiate access to health care. "hey may be unable to access health services because of distance, fear, ex ense or the need for ermission from a s ouse or in%la#s. "hese barriers aggravate the ris$s of maternal com lications and mortality for regnant adolescents. Child brides may also suffer vulnerability to ?0@/A0<+. :eing young and female in Africa is a ma!or ris$ factor for infection and young girls are being infected at a considerably dis ro ortional rate to that of boys )8*. Whilst early marriages are sometimes seen by arents as a mechanism for rotecting their daughters from ?0@/A0<+, future husbands may already be infected from revious sexual encountersA a ris$ #hich is articularly acute for girls #ith older husbands )>*. "he age dis arity bet#een a child bride and her husband, in addition to her lo# economic autonomy, further increases a girl's vulnerability to ?0@/A0<+. 0t exacerbates the abilities of girls and #omen to ma$e and negotiate sexual decisions, including #hether or not to engage in sexual activity, issues relating to the use of contrace tion and condoms for rotecting against ?0@ infection, and also their ability to demand fidelity from their husbands. "here is also a clear lin$ bet#een 1emale =enital Butilation C1=BD and child and early marriages. Communities #ho ractice 1=B are also more li$ely to ractice child marriages and in some 1=B racticing communities 1=B is carried out at uberty and then marriages are arranged immediately after#ards. 0t is also common in 1=B racticing communities for a man to refuse to marry a girl or #oman #ho has not undergone 1=B, or to demand that 1=B is carried out before marriage.

Develo mental consequences

Child Barriage also has considerable im lications for the social develo ment of child brides, in terms of lo# levels of education, oor health and lac$ of agency and ersonal autonomy. "he 1orum on Barriage and the Rights of Women and =irls ex lains that '#here these elements are lin$ed #ith gender ine&uities and biases for the ma!ority of young girls,their socialisation #hich grooms them to be mothers and submissive #ives, limits their develo ment to only re roductive roles' )13*. Whilst girls in Africa are already less li$ely to go to attend school than boys, articularly in oorer households, the non%education of the girl child is a roblem com ounded by child marriage, #ith studies sho#ing a strong correlation bet#een a #oman's age at marriage and the level of education she achieves )11*. Earge numbers of the girls #ho dro out of school do so because of early marriage, leaving many #omen #ho married early illiterate. Early marriage lans can also discourage a girl's arents from educating their daughter because they believe that a formal education #ill only benefit her future family in la#. A lac$ of education also means that young brides often lac$ $no#ledge about sexual relations, their bodies and re roduction, exacerbated by the cultural silence surrounding these sub!ects. "his denies the girl the ability to ma$e informed decisions about sexual relations, lanning a family, and her health, yet another exam le of their lives in #hich they have no control. "he cyclical nature of early marriage results in a li$ely lo# level of education and life s$ills, increased vulnerability to abuse and oor health, and therefore acute overty.

Psychological and social consequences

0t is a huge res onsibility for a young girl to become a #ife and mother and because girls are not ade&uately re ared for these roles this heavy burden has a serious im act on their sychological #elfare, their erce tions of themselves and also their relationshi . Women #ho marry early are more li$ely to suffer abuse and violence, #ith inevitable sychological as #ell as hysical conse&uences. +tudies indicate that #omen #ho marry at young ages are more li$ely to believe that it is sometimes acce table for a husband to beat his #ife, and are therefore more li$ely to ex erience domestic violence themselves )12*. @iolent behaviour can ta$e the form of hysical harm, sychological attac$s, threatening behaviour and forced sexual acts including ra e. Abuse is sometimes er etrated by the husband's family as #ell as the husband himself, and girls that enter families as a bride often become domestic slaves for the in%la#s. Early marriage has also been lin$ed to #ife abandonment and increased levels of divorce or se aration )15* and child brides also face the ris$ of being #ido#ed by their husbands #ho are often considerably older. 0n these instances the #ife is li$ely to suffer additional discrimination as in many cultures divorced, abandoned or #ido#ed #omen suffer a loss of status, and may be ostracised by society and denied ro erty rights.

!nternational #arriage






Child marriage is a violation of human rights and is rohibited by a number of international conventions and other instruments. A selection of these are rovided belo#, this list is not exhaustive list and some of the relevant texts have been ara hrased for clarity.

$niversal Declaration of "uman Rights% &'()

Article 19 C1D Ben and #omen of full age have the right to marry and found a family. "hey are entitled to e&ual rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. C2D Barriage shall be entered into only #ith the free and full consent of the intending arties.

Convention on Consent to #arriage% #inimum Age for #arriage and Registration of #arriages% &'*(
Article 1, /o marriage shall be legally entered into #ithout the full and free consent of both arties, such consent to be ex ressed by them in erson as rescribed by la#. Article 2, +tates 6arties to the resent Convention shall s ecify a minimum age for marriage C(not less than 14 years( according to the nonbinding recommendation accom anying this ConventionD. /o marriage shall be legally entered into by any erson under this age, exce t #here a com etent authority has granted a dis ensation as to age, for serious reasons, in the interests of the intending s ouses Article 5, All marriages shall be registered by the com etent authority.

African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child% &''+

Article FF0, Child marriage and the betrothal of girls and boys shall be rohibited and effective action, including legislation, shall be ta$en to s ecify the minimum age of marriage to be eighteen years.

Convention on the Rights of the Child% &')'

"he CRC has been ratified by all countries #ith the exce tion of the -nited +tates and +omalia. A number of articles #ithin the CRC hold relevance to Child marriage, ho#ever a small number are listed here, Article 5. 0n all actions concerning children the best interests of the child shall be a rimary consideration. Article 1>. "he right to rotection from all forms of hysical or mental violence, in!ury or abuse, maltreatment or ex loitation, including sexual abuse, #hile in the care of arents, guardian, or any other erson. Article 27. "he right to healthA and to access to health servicesA and to be rotected from harmful traditional ractices. Articles 28 and 2>. "he right to education on the basis of e&ual o ortunity. Article 57. "he right to rotection from all forms of sexual ex loitation and sexual abuse. Article 59. "he right to rotection from all forms of ex loitation re!udicial to any as ect of the child's #elfare.

What can be done?

Early marriage is often erceived as the only o tion for girls and is often seen by arents of young girls as a means of securing both their o#n and their daughter's future. Child marriage is an issue that cannot be solved in isolation as it is results from a com lexity of social, cultural and economic dimensions and #ides read gender discrimination. "he causes and conse&uences of child marriage are intrinsically lin$ed, including girl's lac$ of autonomy and lo# levels of education, oor health status, overty and overall lo# socioeconomic status. Re eated studies have sho#n the im ortant role that education must lay in efforts to eliminate child marriage. Research by -/0CE1 sho#s that the more education a girl receives, the less li$ely she is to be married as a child . 0m roving access to education and eliminating gender ga s in education are therefore im ortant strategies for ending the ractice of child marriage.

1,RWAR<, #ith other organisations #or$ing in the field of the child and #omen's rights has develo ed rogrammes aimed at eradicating this ractice and realising the rights of the girl child. 0n several African countries 1,RWAR< has rogrammes to address violations of the rights of girls and #omen #hich contribute to their lo# socio economic status and other causal factors of child marriage. 0n /orthern /igeria 1,RWAR< has established clinics to treat girls and #omen #ith obstetric fistula and runs income%generating schemes and other initiatives to im rove their social and economic status and #ell%being. Eessons learnt from this rogramme have highlighted the im ortance of a holistic a roach to addressing child marriage, necessitating integrated education, health, economic and artici atory community develo ment rogrammes.

FORWARD and the Forum on #arriage and the Rights of Women and ,irls
1,RWAR< #as instrumental in launching the 1orum on Barriage and the Rights of Women and =irls, in /ovember 1>>8. "he forum #as established to share ex eriences of research and rogramme #or$ on issues of forced and early marriage. "hrough a global net#or$ the forum aims to im rove a roaches to #or$ on this issue and develo common strategies. Footnotes 1orced Barriage -nit, -G 1oreign H Common#ealth ,ffice, 2339, 1orced Barriage. A Wrong /ot a Right, available at. this lin$ /ote 2 -/0CE1, 2334, Early Barriage. A ?armful "raditional 6ractice, available at. this lin$ /ote 5 -/16A, 2334, Child Barriage 1act +heet, available at. this lin$ /ote 7 -/16A, 2334, Child Barriage 1act +heet, available at. this lin$ /ote 4 -/0CE1, 2334, Early Barriage. A ?armful "raditional 6ractice, available at. this lin$ /ote 9 -/16A, 2334, Child Barriage 1act +heet, available at. this lin$ /ote 8 -/16A, 2334, Child marriage 1actsheet, available at. this lin$ /ote 1

-/16A. 2337. Child Barriage Advocacy 6rogramme. 1act +heet on Child Barriage and Early -nion. /ote "he 1orum on Barriage and the Rights of Women and =irls, Early marriage and 6overty % 13 Ex loring lin$s for olicy and rogramme develo ment, 2335, 1,RWAR<. /ote Ienson, R. and R. "hornton, 2335, 'Early female marriage in the develo ing #orld', 11 =ender and <evelo ment, vol. 11, no. 2, 2335, . >%1>. /ote Ienson, R. and R. "hornton, 2335, 'Early female marriage in the develo ing #orld', 12 =ender and <evelo ment, vol. 11, no. 2, 2335, . >%1>. /ote -/0CE1,2331, Early Barriage. Child + ouses, available at. this lin$ 15 /ote -/0CE1, 2331, Early marriages, Child s ouses, available at. this lin$ 17 /ote 8