The causes of early and forced marriage are complex, interrelated and dependent on individual circumstances and context. But the practice is driven by these main factors:
gender inequality – women and girls often occupy a lower status in societies as a result of social and cultural traditions, attitudes, beliefs that deny them their rights and stifle their ability to play an equal role in their homes and communities
poverty – in families on a low income, girls may be viewed as an economic burden. The perception of girls’ potential to earn an income as comparatively poor pushes girls out of their homes and into marriage
negative traditional or religious practices – in many countries the importance of preserving family ‘honour’ and girls’ virginity is such that parents push their daughters into marriage well before they are ready. There is a belief that marriage safeguards against ‘immoral’ or ‘inappropriate behaviour’
failure to enforce laws – sometimes families are not even aware they are breaking the law. In some countries early marriage is so prevalent, prosecutions are seldom brought
conflicts, disasters and emergencies – disasters and emergencies increase economic pressures on households and many families that wouldn’t previously have considered early marriage turn to it as a last resort.
What are the consequences of early and forced marriage?
Early and forced marriage contributes to driving girls into a cycle of poverty and powerlessness. They are likely to experience:
violence, abuse and forced sexual relations – women who marry younger are more likely to be beaten and to believe that husbands can justify it
poor sexual and reproductive health – young married girls are more likely to contract HIV than their unmarried counterparts because of their greater sexual exposure, often with an older husband who by virtue of his age is more at risk of being HIV positive
illiteracy and lack of...