According to a recent report by Save the Children one girl under the age of 15 is married every seven seconds.
Girls as young as 10 are forced to marry much older men in countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen, India and Somalia.
In humanitarian contexts, such as the refugee crisis, the likelihood of child marriage only increases as poverty, insecurity and lack of services such as schools mean that families are more likely to marry their daughters young. This creates a problem in Europe when young girls enter a country with their husbands and ask for asylum – specifically they should be treated as children or wives.
Child marriage triggers a cycle of disadvantage across the girls’ life – a girl who is married young is pulled out of school at a younger age, they are often poor as the family needs the dowry money, and are more likely to face physical abuse and domestic violence, as well as exposure to sexually transmitted infections such as HIV. In Nigeria 40% of the poorest girls are married by 15 compared to 3% of the richest girls. As well as poverty, geographical remoteness and minority ethnic and religious groups increase the likelihood of being married young.
The report, called Every Last Girl shows that education is key to stopping child marriage. A study in India proved that it was the most important factor in delaying marriage and pregnancy.
It also ranks countries on how hard it is to be a girl, using education, maternal mortality, child marriage, teenage pregnancy and women in parliament as the indicators. The study concluded that the poorest countries in the world are the ones where it is worse to be a girl; Somalia, Mali, Central African Republic, Chad and Niger ranked the lowest.