Imagine being a 9-year-old girl, with dreams of becoming a teacher one day. You love school and learning and spending time with your friends. But at home, your father is talking about finding you a husband – not when you’re in your twenties, educated and working. No, now.
Child marriage is a violation of international human rights law. Yet around the world, about 650 million of the women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). By 2030, it’s estimated that more than 150 million girls will become child brides. The problem affects young boys as well, but to a much lesser degree than girls. In 2015, UNICEF estimated that about 18 percent of children married before age 18 are boys, while the rest are girls.
No doubt there has been progress. Concerted efforts to eliminate the practice have successfully averted about 25 million child marriages over the last decade: Whereas one in four women and girls were married as children 10 years ago, that ratio has dropped to one in five. But UNICEF warns that progress is not nearly fast enough to eliminate the practice by 2030, as laid out in UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5. In fact, the agency says that the rate of progress needs to be 12 times faster than in the past decade to meet the target, and right now, not a single region in the world is on track to do so.
While South Asia has improved the most, UNICEF reports that girls in Latin America and the Caribbean are still just as likely to become child brides as their mothers were. Meanwhile, early and forced marriage is actually expected to increase in Sub-Saharan Africa, because the population is growing rapidly, but progress in eliminating the practice has been slowest in the world. Currently, 38 percent of girls in Sub-Saharan Africa become child brides.
Read the full story about what it will take to end child marriage by Joanne Lu at Global Washington.