150,000,000 More Child-Mothers?

Human Wrongs Watch

By Baher Kamal*

So far, 650 million women alive today were married as children

Yet another inhumane practice to be added to the already reported Born Complete, Don’t Mutilate Them! and Robert J. Burrowes’ Humanity’s ‘Dirty Little Secret’ – Starving, enslaving, raping, torturing and killing our children.

Now it is about child-girls forced to be married before the age of 18.

Such a violation of human rights is widely practised in former European colonies in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, in countries that had been practically enslaved under military occupation and which, since their formal independence, have been easy prey to intensive exploitation by giant private corporations.

Let alone the influence of deeply-rooted social traditions, often based on interpretations of different religion beliefs (honour, patriarchalism, etc)


Pregnancy also increases the risk of child marriage. In Kenya, Pamela’s father tried to marry her off after she became pregnant. She fled. “If I ever go back home, he will kill me,” she said. But she is happy she escaped. Luca Zordan for UNFPA

One of the most dramatic consequences of that occupation and the ongoing exploitation is the deepening impoverishment of native populations.

The consequences

Consequently, the so far 650 million women alive today were married as children, who fall victims to this harmful practise, come mostly from impoverished families that found themselves forced to sell their children –often also to ‘give’ them for free– in the hope of keeping them alive with shelter and food, closing a blind eye to what older ‘husbands’ would do with them.

On this, UNICEF reports that many factors interact to place a girl at risk of marriage, including poverty, the perception that marriage will provide ‘protection’, family honour, social norms, customary or religious laws that condone the practise, and an inadequate legislative framework.


That said, “child marriage often compromises a girl’s development by resulting in early pregnancy and social isolation, interrupting her schooling, limiting her opportunities for career and vocational advancement and placing her at increased risk of domestic violence. Child marriage also affects boys, but to a lesser degree than girls.”

Cohabitation –when a couple lives ‘in union’ as if married– raises the same human rights concerns as marriage, UNICEF explains, adding that when a girl lives with a man and takes on the role of his caregiver, the assumption is often that she has become an adult, even if she has not yet reached the age of 18.

Additional concerns due to the informality of the relationship –in terms of inheritance, citizenship and social recognition, for example– may make girls in informal unions vulnerable in different ways than girls who are married.

The following 13 facts and 6 figures, which have been compiled by the two main world specialised bodies -UNICEF and UN Population Fund (UNFPA), should suffice to unveil such a flagrant human rights violation:


When they are empowered, girls can pursue dreams bigger than an early marriage. “I am not ready for marriage because I want to continue studying to be a professional,” said Maybelle, 15, in El Salvador. © UNFPA El Salvador

Thirteen key facts…

  • Child marriage refers to any formal marriage or informal union between a child under the age of 18 and an adult or another child.
  • While the prevalence of child marriage has decreased worldwide – from one in four girls married a decade ago to approximately one in five today – the practice remains widespread.
  • Child marriage can lead to a lifetime of suffering. Girls who marry before they turn 18 are less likely to remain in school and more likely to experience domestic violence.
  • Young teenage girls are more likely to die due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth than women in their 20s, and their children are more likely to be stillborn or die in the first month of life.
  • Girls married as children are more likely to drop out of school and become pregnant as teenagers – when they face increased risks of dying during pregnancy or childbirth, compared to women in their twenties.
  • Infants born to teenage mothers are also more likely to be stillborn or die in the first month of life.
  • Wherever they occur, harmful practises rob girls of their childhood, deny them the chance to determine their own future and threaten the well-being of individuals, families and societies.
  • Child marriage is often the result of entrenched gender inequality, making girls disproportionately affected by the practise. Globally, the prevalence of child marriage among boys is just one fifth that among girls.
  • Child marriage robs girls of their childhood and threatens their lives and health.
  • Girls who marry before 18 have worse economic and health outcomes than their unmarried peers, which are eventually passed down to their own children, further straining a country’s capacity to provide quality health and education services.
  • Child brides often become pregnant during adolescence, when the risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth increases – for themselves and their infants.
  • The practise can also isolate girls from family and friends and exclude them from participating in their communities, taking a heavy toll on their physical and psychological well-being.
  • Because child marriage impacts a girl’s health, future and family, it imposes substantial economic costs at the national level, too, with major implications for development and prosperity.

Informing children, and their communities, about the harms of child marriage can help mobilize a movement against it. “I think it’s not a good idea for young children to be married,” said Faina, 18. © UNFPA Comoros

… and six key figures

  • Globally around 21 per cent (over 1 in 5) of young women were married before their 18th birthday.
  • 650,000,000 girls and women alive today were married as children.
  • 12,000,000 girls under 18 are married each year.
  • More than 150 million additional girls will marry before their 18th birthday by 2030.
  • Across the globe, levels of child marriage are highest in sub-Saharan Africa, where around 4 in 10 young women were married before age 18, followed by South Asia, where 3 in 10 were married before age 18.
  • Lower levels of child marriage are found in Latin America and Caribbean (25 per cent), the Middle East and North Africa (17 per cent), and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (11 per cent).

In 2016, UNICEF and UNFPA, launched a global programme to tackle child marriage in 12 of the most high-prevalence or high-burden countries: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Yemen and Zambia.


Harmful practices | UNICEF/UNI73765/Holt

Want to know more?

— Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage

— Child marriage – Frequently Asked Questions

Until when such a flagrant violence will continue to be committed against millions and millions of girls who will be the mothers of coming generations?

Any chance that world military, weapons-producers and sellers’ powers (at least the five, permanent, self-attributed veto-holders, members of the so-called UN Security Council, those bla-bla-bla-speakers about democracy and human rights), any chance that they press on impoverished countries’ rulers to put an end to such grave rights violations?

They are easily able to force those rulers to massively buy bombs, missiles and many other killing machines, aren’t they?


Baher Kamal

*Baher Kamal

Baher Kamal is an Egyptian-born, Spanish national, secular journalist, with nearli five decades of professional experience — from reporter to special envoy to chief editor of national dailies and an international news agency.
He is former Senior Advisor to the Director general of the international news agency IPS (Inter Press Service) and he also contributed to several prestigious magazines.
Baher Kamal is publisher and editor of Human Wrongs Watch , a non-profit, non-commercial mirror of “unseen” news and views. He is also member of TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environmentand of Other News – Voices Against the Tide.

Recent stories by Baher Kamal:

Today’s Menu: Pesticide Salad, Leaded Fish with Plastic, and Intoxicated Fruit

The Immense Cost 200 Million Migrant Workers Pay to Rescue their Impoverished Families: Half a Trillion Dollars Only this Year

The Implacable Desertification of Planet Earth

Watch Out: Your Money Is Being Used to Destroy the World!

These Aliens Are Here to Stay (And They Are Dangerous)

Long Life to Their Majesties, The Bees!

The Hellish Cycle

The Most Expensive 529 Billion Dollars

Read more articles by Baher Kamal HERE.

2019 Human Wrongs Watch


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