When my parents mentioned marriage I had no idea what marriage even meant,” says Kamla, a young woman in Hazaribag, in the Indian state of Jharkhand. They married her off, she says, when she was 12 or 13. More than half the girls in Jharkhand are married before they turn 18, making it the state with the third-highest rate of early marriage in India, which -- though the practice has been illegal there for a century -- is home to the largest number of early marriages in the world. “Gaon mein aisa hi hota hai” – “This is how it happens in villages” – they say. We believe we can change that. And we must.
Between 2011 and 2020, if current rates hold, more than 140 million girls will marry before age 18. That translates to 14.2 million girls annually -- or 39,000 every day. Of these, 50 million will be under the age of 15. That adds up to a serious global crisis. Early marriage is a profound violation of the human rights of girls. It also means an early, and devastating, start to a cascade of related human rights violations – threats to sexual, reproductive, and maternal health; domestic violence; denial of education, mobility, self-determination, and more -- that last a lifetime and cost girls, families, communities, and nations inestimable human capital. Fortunately, we have attention and momentum on our side. Shocking reports of violence from Delhi to Steubenville, from South Africa to the U.S. military have brought unprecedented public attention to the global pandemic of violence against women -- along with an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the shared connections, causes, and consequences of all forms of such violence, including early marriage. If we can stop early marriage, we can stop those cycles early, too. What is the scope of the problem?
Globally, some girls are married before the age of 8 or 9. In the least developed countries, nearly half of all girls will marry before age 15. And in India, 47 percent of women are married by age 18. What is...
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