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Child marriage: any marriage where at least one of the parties is under 18 years of age.
Forced marriage: a marriage in which one and/or both parties have not personally expressed their full and free consent to the union. A child marriage is considered a form of forced marriage, given that one and/or both parties have not expressed full, free and informed consent.
Over 650 million women alive today were married as children. 115 million boys and men were child grooms.
Around 12 million girls under the age of 18 are married each year.
1 in 5 girls worldwide are married before they turn 18.
There is a strong correlation between poverty rates and CFMs.
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This graph shows the correlation between poverty rates and rates of child marriage in 134 different countries. Data was taken from the most recent censuses in each country.
Within countries, rates of child marriage are highest amongst the poorest members of the population.
Child and forced marriage (CFM) is a human rights violation. It disproportionately (but not exclusively) affects women and girls - increasing their social isolation and restricting their freedom. They often result in early pregnancies, which can present health risks, disrupts girls' education and limits their career opportunities. It also increases their vulnerability to gender-based violence and is damaging to their psychological wellbeing.
UNICEF has reported that up to 10 million girls worldwide will be put at risk of becoming child brides due to the increased economic and social vulnerability caused by the pandemic.
Child and Forced Marriage in Arise Focus Regions
In 2017, 16.9% of marriages involved a bride under the age of 19 and 0.5% involved a groom under the age of 19. These numbers only include registered marriages, excluding a significant number in Roma communities where rates of child marriage are known to be high. The average age of marriage for Roma women in Albania is 15.5 years old - the youngest of all ethnic groups in the country.
Strong patriarchal norms make Albanian women and girls particularly vulnerable to forced and child marriage. Whilst there is a lack of statistical evidence, CFM is known to be a common phenomenon in rural parts of the country where arranged marriages remain a cultural tradition.
Legislation: Under the Family Code (2003), the minimum age for marriage is 18 years old. There is no legislation on forced marriage as distinct from child marriage.
In 2020, UNICEF reported 726,000 Filipina child brides - the 12th highest absolute number globally. It’s estimated that 15% of Filipina girls are married before they turn 18.
Legislation: Senate Bill No. 1373 “Girls Not Brides Act” was approved in 2020, making child marriages illegal in the Philippines. There is no legislation that specifically deals with forced marriage as distinct from child marriage.
It is estimated that at least 1.5 million girls under 18 years old are married each year in India - a third of the total number of child brides globally, and the highest number of child brides of any single country.
The proportion of girls getting married has decreased from 47% in 2005-6 to 27% in 2015-16. However, the number of child marriages remains high in India due high levels of poverty and strong social norms perpetuating gender discrimination and inequality.
Legislation: Child marriage is illegal in India under the Child Marriage Restraint Act (1929). There is no legislation on forced marriage as distinct from child marriage.
In 2018, there were an estimated 22 million child brides living in Nigeria.
In the same year, Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey found 43% of women between 20 and 49 years old had married before the age of 18. 8% of girls between 15 and 19 years old were married before the age of 15.
This survey also found that, on average, women with no education marry 6 years earlier than women with secondary education. Women in the poorest 20% of the population marry, on average, 8 years earlier than women in the wealthiest 20%. The mean age of marriage for women in more rural areas was 17.2 years, compared to 21.6 years for those in urban areas.
Legislation: Forced marriage is illegal under Nigerian civil law (1990a). Nigeria’s Marriage Act requires the parent or guardian’s consent if either party is under 21 years old. Arranged marriages for children (younger than 18 years old) are discouraged under the National Policy on Population.