Early Marriage

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EARLY MARRIAGE A HARMFUL TRADITIONAL PRACTICE A STATISTICAL EXPLORATION CONTENTS
I. INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 II. GLOBAL ASSESSMENT OF CHILD MARRIAGE: REGIONAL TRENDS . . . . . . . . . . . .4 III. WOMEN AGED 20–24 IN UNION BY AGE 18 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4 IV. GIRLS AGED 15–19 CURRENTLY IN UNION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12 Proportional disaggregation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12 Distribution: Profile of a married girl . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15 V. WOMEN IN POLYGYNOUS UNIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18 Women aged 15–49 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18 Girls aged 15–19 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20 VI. CHILD MARRIAGE AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22 VII. CHOICE OF SPOUSE AND DECISION-MAKING ABILITY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23 VIII. MULTIVARIATE ANALYSIS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25 IX. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27 REFERENCES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29 STATISTICAL TABLES

Table 1: Percentage and number of women married by ages 15 and 18 . . . . . . . . . .31 Table 2: Percentage of women aged 20–24 married by the exact age of 18 . . . . . . .32 Table 3: Girls aged 15–19 currently in union . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .34 Table 4: Distribution of girls aged 15–19 in union . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36 Table 5: Percentage of women in polygynous marriages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .38 Table 6: Percentage of girls aged 15 –19 in polygynous marriages . . . . . . . . . . . . . .38 Table 7: Child marriage, domestic violence and choice of partner . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .40 Table 8: Child marriage and decision-making ability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .40 Cover photo: © UNICEF/HQ97-0934/Shehzad Noorani

Text: © The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 2005 EARLY MARRIAGE: A Harmful Traditional Practice 1
I. INTRODUCTION
Marriage before the age of 18 is a reality for many young women. In many parts of the world parents encourage the marriage of their daughters while they are still children in hopes that the marriage will benefit them both financially and socially, while also relieving financial burdens on the family. In actuality, child marriage is a violation of human rights, compromising the development of girls and often resulting in early pregnancy and social isolation, with little education and poor vocational training reinforcing the gendered nature of poverty. The right to ‘free and full’ consent to a marriage is recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – with the recognition that consent cannot be ‘free and full’ when one of the parties involved is not sufficiently mature to make an informed decision about a life partner. The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women mentions the right to protection from child marriage in article 16, which states: “The betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage...”1 While marriage is not considered directly in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, child marriage is linked to other rights – such as the right to express their views freely, the right to protection from all forms of abuse, and...
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