Early marriage can be a violation of children's basic rights - to a childhood, to an education, to good health and to make decisions about their own lives.
The physical, emotional and social effects of early marriage are varied, but one of the most common outcomes is the withdrawal of girls from formal education.
While marriage does not have to mean that a girl's or boy's education finishes, the attitudes of parents, schools and spouses in many societies mean that it often does.
Husbands of young wives are often older men, who expect their wives to follow tradition, stay home and undertake household and child-care duties. A girl may be unable to go against her husband's wishes and the husband's family may refuse to invest their scarce resources in the wife's continued schooling.
Schools often have a policy of refusing to allow married or pregnant girls or girls with babies to return. They may believe that it will set a bad example to other pupils or that other parents will be angry to see the school go against the traditional beliefs. Even if they do permit girls to return, the school environment - rules, timetables and physical conditions - can make it too difficult for a girl to attend school and perform her duties as wife and mother at the same time. Bullying and abuse by teachers, pupils and other parents can further reduce girls' self-confidence and sense of security, forcing...