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One girl under 15 married every seven seconds

Monday, 10 October 2016

One girl under 15 is married every seven seconds, according to a new analysis by Save the Children which reveals the scale of the threat posed by child marriage.

Girls as young as ten are being forced to marry men, often a lot older than themselves, in countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen, India and Somalia.

A new report by Save the Children, Every Last Girl: Free to live, free to learn, free from harm,has ranked countries in an index according to child marriage, schooling, teen pregnancy, maternal deaths and number of female MPs.

Countries at the bottom of the index include Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, Mali and Somalia. Countries at the top include Sweden, Finland, Norway, Netherlands and Belgium. The UK ranks 15th out of 144 countries.

Save the Children’s new CEO Kevin Watkins said: “Child marriage isn’t just a form of discrimination, it’s a form of violence.

“Forcing girls to marry much older men robs them of their freedom and amounts to sexual slavery. Instead of being in school, married girls face domestic violence, abuse and rape. They fall pregnant and are exposed to STIs including HIV. Bearing children before their bodies are ready means girls suffer complicated deliveries and even death.”

The report also reveals:

· Girls are disproportionately affected by conflict with many refugee families marrying off their daughters as a safety or coping mechanism such as Syrian girls in Lebanon

· Girls from poor families are more likely to be married early than their richer peers. In Nigeria, 40% of the poorest girls are married by 15 compared to 3% of the richest

· India has the highest number of child marriages of any country, partly owing to the large size of its population, with 47% of girls married under 18 – around 24.6 million

· Whilst one girl under 15 is married every seven seconds, one girl under 18 is married every two seconds

· Girls suffer most during crises such as the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone where schools shutting down led to an estimated 14,000 teen pregnancies

· Most countries are struggling to achieve gender parity amongst MPs, regardless of the size of their economy.

· Rwanda tops the table with 64% followed by Bolivia and Cuba. By contrast, only 19% of Members of Congress in the USA are women and only 29% of MPs in the UK are women

In Lebanon, Save the Children supports a 14 year old Syrian girl named Sahar*. She was married at 13, to a 20 year old man, and is now two months pregnant.

She said: “The wedding day, I was imagining it would be a great day but it wasn’t. It was all misery. It was full of sadness. Many girls who get married at a young age get illnesses and suffer from bleeding. Thank God it didn’t happen to me.

“I feel really blessed that I am having a baby. But I am a child raising a child.”

The international community has pledged to end child marriage by 2030 but if current trends continue, the total number of women married in childhood will grow from more than 700 million today to around 950 million by 2030, and to 1.2 billion by 2050.

Save the Children runs a range of programmes that support the most disadvantagedgirls around the world. It is calling on governments and donors to invest in girls’ education and life chances, to help bring an end to child marriage and gender discrimination.


For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Alice Klein on:a.klein@savethechildren.org.uk / 07812357047 / 02037631069

Notes to editors:

*Sahar’s real name has been changed to protect her identity. Photos and video of Sahar and other child brides like her are available to download at:http://storycentral.savethechildren.org.uk/?c=39890&k=89cf1970ee

The report and index can be viewed at:www.savethechildren.org.uk/sites/default/files/images/Every_Last_Girl.pdf

Child marriage rates: these are 2015 estimates produced by the UN for girls under 15 by asking women aged 20-24 if they were married before that age. The figures are therefore for young women who were married and under 15 before 2010. The ‘one girl married every seven seconds’ statistic is calculated by applying the 2015 global child marriage rate to global population figures, calculating the average number of marriages per year, and dividing the number of seconds in a year by the number of marriages per year. This differs from the statistic for girls under 18, which is one marriage every two seconds. Our index uses the statistic for child marriage under 18. We assume marriages are evenly distributed by age group.

Estimates of future trends: according to the United Nations Children’s Fund, the total number of women married in childhood will grow from more than 700 million today to around 950 million by 2030. By 2050 this number would reach 1.2 billion. See UNICEF (2014) Ending Child Marriage: Progress and Prospects :http://www.unicef.org/media/files/Child_Marriage_Report_7_17_LR..pdf

Lebanon: According to UNHCR data, more than 6% of Syrian girls aged between 12 and 17 in Lebanon are married.

India: As of 2006 (the latest year for which data on early marriage is available), 24.6 million females aged 20-24 were married before the age of 18 in India.