Seven Things You Should Know About Child “Marriage”

Child "marriage" is a global problem, affecting 12 million girls a year.

Since 1995, international women's rights organization Equality Now has been working to create a safer, healthier world for girls by calling on governments to enact and uphold laws that prevent child “marriage” and to address the drivers including gender inequality. Globally, we advocate for 18 years as the minimum age of marriage.

1. It is a human rights violation

Child “marriage," defined as a formal marriage or informal union before the age of 18, violates international human rights law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). It also legitimizes further abuses, leaving girls and women vulnerable.

2. It happens on every continent except Antarctica

12 million girls are married before age 18 every year across religious, ethnic, and cultural groups and on every continent except Antarctica. In the United States alone, approximately 248,000 children were married between 2000 and 2010. The vast majority were girls wed to adult men, many much older.

3. It is rooted in gender inequality

Child “marriage” affects girls at far greater rates than boys; 720 million women and girls alive today were married before age 18, compared to 156 million men and boys.

4. It disproportionately affects children in poverty

Across all regions, children living in poverty are most vulnerable to child “marriage.“

5. It leaves girls at greater risk of dying in childbirth

Childbirth related complications are among the leading causes of death for adolescent girls (15-19 years old) worldwide; 90% of births to girls between 15-19 years old occur within a “marriage.”

6. It has lifelong consequences

Women married as children have, on average, lower levels of education than those who marry after the age of eighteen, trapping them in a cycle of poverty, vulnerability to domestic and sexual violence, and poor health outcomes.

7. It is legal in 48 states in the U.S.

Child “marriage” is currently legal in 48 states (only Delaware and New Jersey have set the minimum age at 18 and eliminated all exceptions), and 20 U.S. states do not require any minimum age for marriage, with parental or judicial waiver.

From Boston to Baghdad, the more we know, the better we can work together to end child “marriage". Join Equality Now in our work to end child "marriage" and call for the implementation and enforcement of laws that make sure no girl is a bride.

Take action to end child “marriage” in the U.S. and Iraq.