Even before you finish reading this sentence, a girl-child will have gotten married in some part of the world illegally, new research reported Tuesday.
Nearly 1 in every 4 seconds, or 20,000 girls younger than 18 are married each day illegally.
Like the 12-year-old girl who was raped by her cousin and forced by her aunt to marry him, according to the report.
The research marks the International Day of the Girl on October 11. Child marriage is a human rights violation and a form of violence against girls, according to the report by Save the Children and the World Bank.
“I was crying as they carried out the marriage rituals, ” the 12-year-old said. “My aunt told me to do whatever my husband told me. ” Her husband was 23.
“Child marriage is a harmful practice that disproportionately affects millions of girls each year, with negative impacts on their health, education, and opportunities in life. ”
Girls — and boys — who marry younger than 18 are not ready for marriage, sex or reproduction, the report says, and seldom complete secondary schooling. Child marriages are often forced and often happen between a young girl and an older man without consent.
Most countries have set 18 as the minimum legal age for girls marrying, but governments still grapple with enforcing child-marriage laws because of competing cultural and religious laws. In many countries worldwide, girls can be married younger than 18 if their parents or courts consent.
That is a huge driver of illegal child marriages, says Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children.
Another driver of girl-child marriage is the attitude of parents toward their daughters, Miles told VOA StudentU.
Parents marry off their daughters way sooner than they are ready because women are valued economically less than men. Parents typically invest more in the education of their sons more than their daughters, resulting in a cycle of oppression for women, says Miles.
In parts of Ethiopia, the practice of female genital mutilation or circumcision (FGM/C) is common to enhance a girl’s marriageability.