It’s difficult to believe that in the 21st century, the child-bride phenomenon still exists around the globe. So far, 33 African countries have set the minimum age of marriage to 18 in an effort to protect both boys and girls from the archaic practice. Several countries have even set the minimum age above 18 (Algeria, Libya, and Rwanda to name a few). However, there are still a number of countries which, despite setting the minimum age at 18, allow exceptions wherein girls can be married off so long as they have either parental consent or court consent.
At least a third of girls in the developing world are married before the age of 18, and numbers show that 1 in 9 are married before the age of 15. If these trends continue without changing, over 150 million girls will be married prior to their 18th birthday. The countries with the highest incident rate of child marriage include Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, and Mozambique.
There is a distinct relationship between poverty and child marriage, with girls living in impoverished households listed at nearly twice as likely to marry before 18 as their wealthier counterparts. In the countries listed as the worst offenders, 75% of their populations live on as little as two dollars per day.
The solution may be education. Girls with higher levels of education are considerably less likely to marry as children. Ensuring that girls receive a proper education will keep them alive longer as well, as pregnancy is among the leading cause of death for girls ages 15 to 19 across the globe. Girls who marry young are also more susceptible to domestic violence than their peers who marry later in life. Studies show that girls who marry before the age of 18 are twice as likely to be physically or sexually assaulted by their spouse.
This is a problem of epidemic proportions in various regions of the world. And education may be the brightest hope for a lot of these young women and girls.