Ballroom Level-Renaissance Ballroom West Salon B (Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel)
Background and Purpose:
Historically, the practice of girl child marriage has been going on, perhaps, since the beginning of the institution of marriage. In William Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet,
written sometimes in 1600s, the nurse tells Lady Capulet that Juliet is almost 14 years of age. Lady Capulet then tells her daughter, Juliet that she was already a mother by Juliet's age. The play reflected marriage practices in England at the time. For example, at age 14, King Henry IV of England was married to Mary de Bohun who was 12 years of age. Since then, we have come a long way and have a much better understanding of the adverse consequences of child marriage. The United Nations defines anyone under age 18 as children. Most countries have passed laws prohibiting child marriage. Yet, girl child marriage is widely practiced in spite of its serious adverse consequences. Over 50,000 girls married as children die annually due to pregnancy and birth related complications because their bodies are not fully developed 1.
There is also the evidence that women married as children are significantly more likely to experience unwanted pregnancies, birth complications, pregnancy related death, and risk for contracting sexually transmitted infections2
. It is estimated that over 14 million girls under the age of 18 marry every year globally, which translates into nearly 39,000 girls married every day1
Child marriage is most prevalent in South Asia and Africa and is rising in former Soviet Union countries. The four studies included in this symposium capture the global trend in child marriage and attempt to understand the predictors of child marriage in Nepal, India, Ghana, and Azerbaijan.
Methods: All four studies utilized large, nationally representative, Demographic and Health Survey data collected to monitor maternal and child health outcomes in four different countries. The authors conducted univariate, bivariate and multiple logistic regression analyses to predict child marriage.
Results: As expected, child marriage was widely prevalent in India, Nepal and Ghana. The incidence of child marriage is rising in Azerbaijan. In all countries, girls’ low education was strongly correlated with their marriage as children. These studies also located the region of each country with higher concentration of child marriage.
Implications: These studies representing four different countries arrived at consistent findings. High prevalence of child marriage was associated with low or no formal education of girls. Interventions should focus on the enrollment and retention of girls in schools. Also, given that marriage before age 18 was illegal in all countries except Azerbaijan (where legal age at marriage is 16), these countries should focus on implementing their laws more seriously especially in regions with higher concentration of child marriage.
1. Evenhuis M, Burn J. Just married, just a child:Child marriage in the Indo-Pacific region: Plan International Australia; 2014.
2. Raj A. When the mother is a child: the impact of child marriage on the health and human rights of girls. Archives of Disease in Childhood. Nov 2010;95(11):931-935.