In the last decade, child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) has affected about 58 million girls. Many of these girls are extremely young, even as young as eight, and are married against their will. In some cultures every seventh girl is married before she reaches the tender age of 15, and age when she should just be finding out about herself, her body, and her potential.
Marrying girls at this age essentially cuts off their chances at a full life – their education stops, they begin having children, and whatever plans they dreamed of for their own futures are not to be. Moreover, not just girls are affected – according to UNICEF, 156 million men alive today were married as children.
Yet another challenge with the early marriage phenomenon is that first pregnancies, in many cultures, are expected immediately after marriage, possibly to prove fertility. Thus for the young girl, she is not only forced into marriage, but is expected to raise a baby within the first year.
And there is a more deadly side to child marriage – girls under 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s, and much more likely to experience complications of childbirth. Being young with little or no power to speak for themselves, they are therefore at greater risk for contracting HIV and other STDs.
CEFM is seen as a human rights violation worldwide and works against the efforts being made to improve maternal health, education, food security, and gender equality for girls. SBCC plays a vital role in raising awareness and inspiring action at all levels of society about the dangers of early marriage.
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Banner Photo: In Jaipur, India, Kriti Bharti sits with two of the young people whose child marriages she helped to get annulled.© 2013 Shariq Allaqaband/Cover Asia Press, Courtesy of Photoshare