the United Nations Children’s Agency, UNICEF, has revealed that while the global number of child marriages is declining, the rate is too slow for the menace to be eradicated even within the next 300 years.
In a report released yesterday, UNICEF said multiple crises including conflict, climate shocks, and the ongoing fallout from COVID-19 continue to threaten the fight against child marriage.
“The world is engulfed by crises on top of crises that are crushing the hopes and dreams of vulnerable children, especially girls who should be students, not brides,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.
“Health and economic crises, escalating armed conflicts, and the ravaging effects of climate change are forcing families to seek a false sense of refuge in child marriage. We need to do everything in our power to ensure that their rights to an education and empowered lives are secured,” she said
The report estimates that about 640 million girls and women alive today were married in childhood, or 12 million girls per year, and global reductions would have to be 20 times faster to meet the Sustainable Development Goal of ending child marriage by 2030.
The report also notes that girls who are married off as children face immediate and lifelong consequences, including being less likely to remain in school and facing an increased risk of early pregnancy, child and maternal health complications and mortality, isolation from family and friends, and exclusion from participating in their communities, taking a heavy toll on their mental health and well-being.
While South Asia continues to drive global reductions and is on pace to eliminate child marriage in about 55 years, the region remains home to nearly half or 45% of the world’s child brides. Latin America and the Caribbean are also falling behind and are on course to have the second-highest regional level of child marriage by 2030.
Sub-Saharan Africa – which currently shoulders the second-largest global share of child brides (20 %) – is over 200 years away from ending the practice at its current pace.