We are grateful to Girls Not Brides for allowing us to reproduce this report here on our website.
2016 was a big year for research on child marriage. New data and analysis emerged, building our understanding of child marriage, its drivers and impact, as well as what it will take to end it. Here, we look back on what we learned.
“Where does child marriage happen most?” It’s the first question we get asked working on this issue. In 2016, new data by UNICEF revealed that child marriage happens in places less frequently talked about. Some of the countries with the highest absolute numbers of child marriage include some “unusual suspects”: Brazil and Mexico in South America; Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand in Southeast Asia, and Iran.
We learned that child marriage rates have increased in humanitarian crises yet continue to be inadequately addressed. Research from the Women’s Refugee Commission in Ethiopia, Lebanon, and Uganda showed that child marriage is a seen both as a way of protecting girls and/or alleviating economic hardship caused by conflict and displacement.
While child marriage rates for girls under the age of 15 are declining globally, in many countries, the marriage of 16 to 17-year-old girls has either stagnated or increased. A report from Human Rights Watch in Nepal drew attention to the increase in “love marriages” in Nepal – the practice of adolescent boys and girls choosing to marry – either to escape a forced marriage, avoid the stigma of being in a sexual relationship outside marriage, or to improve their economic situation.
Renewed attention was given to the links between child marriage and HIV at the International AIDS Conference in July: we learned that in 2015, 7,500 young women (15-24) a week became newly infected with HIV. A new literature review on child marriage and HIV highlighted key factors linking child marriage to HIV: un-readiness of girls’ bodies, sex with older and more experienced partners, lower likelihood of using contraception, girls’ inability to speak up for themselves, limited educational opportunities and access to health services.
Initial findings from the World Bank and the International Center for Research and Women has shown that, in addition to the harmful effects on girls’ health, education, rights and wellbeing, the economic impacts of child marriage are significant. Economic impacts include costs for health care systems, lost earnings, lower growth potential and the perpetuation of poverty.
We continue to learn about the effectiveness of different strategies to address child marriage:
2017 will be an even bigger year for research on child marriage. We know that new research is underway in little known regions (such as Georgia, Latin America, and in humanitarian contexts), and on new thematic issues (including sexuality, economic impact, social norms, disability, and so on). If you are planning any research on child marriage, let us know in the comments.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter below and never miss the latest Updates.