Child Marriage

Child Marriage and Child Brides

Child Marriage

Through our research, ICRW is leading efforts to find solutions that will eliminate the harmful practice of child marriage and provide support to already married adolescents.


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Child marriage most often occurs in poor, rural communities. In many regions, parents arrange their daughter’s marriage unbeknownst to the girl. That can mean that one day, she may be at home playing with her siblings and the next, she’s married off and sent to live in another village with her husband and his family – strangers, essentially. She is pulled out of school. She is separated from her peers. And once married, she is more likely to be a victim of domestic violence and suffer health complications associated with early sexual activity and childbearing.

ICRW’s early research provided a deeper understanding of the scope, causes and consequences of child marriage. Now, our experts are focused on how to prevent – and ultimately end – the practice.

10 Things You Can Do to End Child Marriage

  1. Support ICRW’s work to reduce child marriage and improve the lives of adolescent girls.
  2. Let others know this is a global problem that prevents girls from reaching their full potential. Bookmark and share ICRW’s Child Marriage Facts & Figures web page.
  3. Follow ICRW on Twitter.
  4. Spread the word about the harmful consequences of child marriage using Twitter.

    Sample tweet: According to @icrw, if present #childmarriage trends continue, 150 million girls will marry over the next decade.
  5. Watch and share our web video about child marriage, The Bride Price: Consequences of Child Marriage Worldwide.
  6. Connect with ICRW on Facebook.
  7. Subscribe to our e-blast to receive updates on how ICRW is working to combat child marriage.
  8. Learn more about ICRW’s efforts to engage the United States government to prevent child marriage.
  9. Sign the GirlUp petition to thank the Senate for passing the "International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act."
  10. Read National Geographic’s “Too Young to Wed: The Secret World of Child Brides.”

The Issue: Child Marriage

Child marriage, defined as marriage before age 18, devastates the lives of girls, their families and their communities. Widespread in many developing countries, child brides number over 70 million worldwide. In some countries, more than half of the girls are married before they turn 18.

The June edition of National Geographic features the photography of Stephanie Sinclair and includes interviews with ICRW experts on child marriage.

This harmful practice is most common in poor, rural communities, and its consequences only perpetuate the cycle of poverty. More often than not, child brides are pulled out of school, depriving them of an education and meaningful work. They suffer health risks associated with early sexual activity and childbearing, leading to high rates of maternal and child mortality as well as sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. And they are more likely to be victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse and social isolation.

Though child marriage is entrenched in tradition and culture, change is possible. Very often, girls and their parents want to delay marriage but lack options. Governments and communities are actively working to discourage the practice by raising awareness of the adverse consequences for girls, running programs that provide girls with viable alternatives to marriage, and demanding more effective enforcement of existing laws that condemn child marriage. With the right mix of effective programs, policies and political will, millions of girls will have the opportunity to fulfill their potential.

Our Role

ICRW’s focus on child marriage emerged from our work to improve the lives of adolescents. Through early projects in India and Nepal, we found that child marriage was a significant and recurring problem, particularly for girls. Our research efforts set out to understand the scope, causes and consequences in order to find solutions. Collaborating with local partners, we've designed effective programs that work with girls and boys, their families and communities to delay marriage. We have evaluated projects and programs to determine how and why they work. And we've used our research evidence to educate national and international policymakers on the urgent need for leadership and action.

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