More than 700 million women living today entered into forced marriages as children under the age of 18, according to a landmark report by Save the Children called Every Last Girl. The current rate of marriage worldwide for girls under 15 is one every seven seconds.
These teenaged and pre-teenaged girls are not falling in love and voluntarily entering marriage relationships. Virtually all find themselves forced into marriage by war, poverty, disasters or local customs. Some are as young as ten, and they are neither physically nor emotionally ready to bear children. Most of the husbands are much older. The report states that an estimated 70,000 girls die annually from childbirth complications.
“Child marriage starts a cycle of disadvantage that denies girls the most basic rights to learn, develop and be children,” said Save the Children International CEO Helle Thorning-Schmidt.
“Girls who marry too early often can’t attend school and are more likely to face domestic violence, abuse and rape. They also bear children before their bodies are fully prepared, which can have devastating consequences on their and their baby’s health.”
An estimated 15 million girls marry each year before the age of 18. The epidemic of child brides is most prevalent among poor families.
The Syrian civil war has escalated the rate of child marriages in Jordanian refugee camps, as a girl’s family may be dead, still in Syria, or residing in another refugee settlement. An estimated 25 percent of Syrian girls ages 15 to 17 got married in Jordan in 2013.
Forced child marriage happens across the world, but the highest rates of child marriage are in African nations like Niger, Central Republic of Africa, Chad, Mali and South Sudan. The highest rate in the Americas is in Nicaragua.
Pray against the evil of female objectification among girls and that political and social leaders will work to give them a path to education and self-determination.