One in every 5 boys married before the age of 15
A recent UNICEF study analyses countries with a high prevalence of child marriage among boys.
And you thought child marriage was only a problem in India!
In its first-ever study of child grooms, the United Nations children's agency (UNICEF) estimates that 115 million boys and men were married as children, worldwide. Of these, one in five children -- 23 million -- were married before the age of 15.
Data available in 82 countries over the past decade -- representing 51 per cent of the global population of men -- was analysed. On average, 4.5 per cent of young men were first married before they turned 18. The results ranged from less than 1 per cent to nearly 30 per cent in some countries.
Countries with the highest prevalence of child grooms
The Central African Republic had the highest prevalence of child grooms at 28 per cent.
The chart above shows the percentage of men aged 20 to 24 years who were first married by age 18 in countries where prevalence of child marriage is above 10 per cent.
According to UNICEF, boys when married young tended to leave school, have limited economic opportunities, and are more vulnerable to abuse and mental health problems than men who marry later.
The practice is less common now compared to 25 years ago. Yet, more research is needed to understand what drives the practice and its effects on child grooms.
The study shows that countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage among boys are geographically diverse and differ from the countries where the practice is most common among girls. The commonality is that children at risk of child marriage are mostly from the poorest households, live in rural areas, and have little or no education.
Girls remain disproportionately affected
Globally about one in every five women aged 20 to 24 were married before they turned 18 when compared to one in 30 men.
The above chart shows the percentage of women aged 20 to 24 years who were first married by age 18 in countries where prevalence of child marriage is above 10 per cent.
Among the 2.2 billion children globally, there are now at least 765 million married boys and girls. Still, girls are more likely to be married away young, putting them at risk of teen pregnancies and related health issues.
In India, a 2016 report by the National Family Health Survey shows that the percentage of women aged 20 to 24 who were married before they turned 15 is seven per cent and those married before 18 is 27 per cent. But there is a silver lining. India has succeed in reducing the rate of child marriages. According to the Global Childhood Report 2019, India’s comprehensive approach to tackling child marriage has been immensely successful. Child marriage is down 51 per cent since 2000 and 63 per cent since 1990. Unfortunately, there has been no research done specifically on child grooms in the country.
“Marriage steals childhood,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. She added, "We need to remember that marrying boys and girls off while they are still children runs counter to the rights enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” said Fore. “Through further research, investment and empowerment, we can end this violation.”