Ten worst places for child marriage

Fear compels parents to marry off their daughters in areas of conflict or disaster, says a new World Vision report.

By James Addis, World Vision U.S.
Published March 6, 2013 at 12:00am PST

Girls who live in countries facing humanitarian crises face the greatest risk of forced marriage, says a new report released by World Vision.

Early marriage high in conflict-ridden countries

The report, “Untying the Knot: Exploring Early Marriage in Fragile States (pdf),” studied the situation in Somaliland, Bangladesh, and Niger, and found that fear of rape, premarital pregnancy, hunger, and homelessness were all drivers of early marriage.

Of the 25 countries with the highest rates of early marriage, the majority are affected by conflict, fragility, or natural disasters, the report finds.

And girls trapped in early marriage tend to be poor, under-educated, and living in rural areas where birth and death rates are high and where conflict is common.

Other drivers included harmful traditional practices and the lack of alternative opportunities for girls — in particular, the lack of opportunity to go to school. Girls will also marry because of threats and coercion.

The report identified the top 10 countries with the highest child marriage rates:

Country Percent married before 15 Percent married before 18
1. Niger* 36 percent 75 percent
2. Chad* 35 percent 72 percent
3. Bangladesh* 32 percent 66 percent
4. Guinea 20 percent 66 percent
5. Central African Republic 21 percent 61 percent
6. Mali* 15 percent 55 percent
7. Mozambique* 17 percent 52 percent
8. Nepal* 10 percent 51 percent
9. Malawi* 9 percent 50 percent
10. Ethiopia* 24 percent 49 percent

* Countries where World Vision works to help build communities that promote and provide for women and girls’ development along with men and boys.

Early marriage poses serious challenges

“The fun of planning a wedding and the heady excitement of the first weeks of marriage will not be the experience of 13.5 million girls this year,” the report says. One in nine girls around the world is forced to marry before her 15th birthday.

Those who are subjected to early marriage are more likely to experience domestic violence, forced sexual relations, poor reproductive health, and lower levels of education, according to the report.

“Early marriage poses a serious challenge to extremely hard-won development gains in least developed countries,” the report says. “And yet, in the face of these facts and the widespread condemnation of the practice, early marriage continues to flourish.”

Combating early marriage

The report makes several recommendations to reduce early marriage:

  • Enforce existing laws that prohibit early marriage
  • Improve access to quality education
  • Create safe areas for women and girls during humanitarian emergencies
  • Mobilize enlightened community leaders and parents to combat gender prejudices

How you can help

Pray for girls in cultures where early marriage is accepted and encouraged. Pray that girls vulnerable to early marriage would gain access to education and be protected from this unhealthy practice.

Make a one-time donation to our Girls and Women Education Fund. You can help provide resources such as school scholarships, art and music instruction, vocational training, and gender equality training. These resources help girls to stay in school, stay unmarried through their teens, and develop their innate leadership abilities — ultimately building a stronger, healthier society.

Sponsor a girl today. By investing in the life of a girl in need, you’ll help her to stay in school and avoid early marriage, while providing access to the resources she needs to become a healthy, productive adult.