One girl under 15 years old is married every seven seconds, says a new report by Save the Children.
By: Roshni Kapur
A new report, named Every Last Girl: Free to live, free to learn, free from harm by aid and development agency Save the Children has revealed that one girl under the age of 15 is married every seven seconds.
The report added that girls as young as 10 years old are married off to much older men in countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen, India and Somalia. The study stated that India has the highest number of child marriages in the world where 47% of girls are married under 18.
The aid and development agency said that early marriage not only has a negative effect on girls but also increases the risk of death or childbirth injuries if they reproduce before their bodies are ready.
“Child marriage starts a cycle of disadvantage that denies girls the most basic rights to learn, develop and be children,” Save the Children International CEO Helle Thorning-Schmidt was quoted in an online article on the BBC.
“Girls who marry too early often can’t attend school, and are more likely to face domestic violence, abuse and rape. They fall pregnant and are exposed to STIs (sexually transmitted infections) including HIV.”
According to researchers, conflict, poverty and humanitarian crises are the prime factors that leave girls vulnerable to early marriage.
The report rated countries from the most difficult place to be a girl to the least based on indicators such as schooling, child marriage, teen pregnancy, maternal deaths and the number of female legislators. While countries such as Chad, Niger, Central African Republic (CAR), Mali and Somalia were placed at the bottom of the report’s index, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Netherlands and Belgium were ranked at the top.
Girls from poor families are more likely to be married early than their richer counterparts, the report stated. The study also found that girls suffer during humanitarian catastrophes such as the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone where the closing of schools led to an estimated 14,000 teen pregnancies.
The report unveiled that girls in refugee camps are prone to being married off young by their families in order to protect them against poverty or sexual exploitation.
Save the Children gave the example of Sahar, not her real name, a 13-year-old Syrian refugee in Lebanon who was married to a 20-year-old man. Now 14, she is, Sahar is two months pregnant.
“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,” Sahar was quoted by Save the Children.
“I feel really blessed that I am having a baby. But I am a child raising a child.”
According to the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, the number of women married in childhood is estimated to increase grow from 700 million today to around 950 million by 2030.
The Save the Children’s report coincided with International Day of the Girl that was celebrated on 11 October. The International Day of the Girl was set up by the United Nations (UN) in 2011 to recognise the rights of the 1.1 billion girls worldwide and the challenges they are confronted with.