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25 million child marriages prevented in last decade due to accelerated progress, according to new UNICEF estimates

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Improving trend in child marriage driven largely by significant reductions in South Asia, but problem persists with over 150 million girls likely to marry by 2030. Photo: UNICEF Viet Nam\2016\Truong Viet HungImproving trend in child marriage driven largely by significant reductions in South Asia, but problem persists with over 150 million girls likely to marry by 2030. Photo: UNICEF Viet Nam\2016\Truong Viet Hung

NEW YORK - Hanoi, 9 March 2018 – The prevalence of child marriage is decreasing globally with several countries seeing significant reductions in recent years, UNICEF said today. Overall, the proportion of women who were married as children decreased by 15 per cent in the last decade, from 1 in 4 to approximately 1 in 5.

South Asia has witnessed the largest decline in child marriage worldwide in the last 10 years, as a girl’s risk of marrying before her 18th birthday has dropped by more than a third, from nearly 50 per cent to 30 per cent, in large part due to progress in India. Increasing rates of girls’ education, proactive government investments in adolescent girls, and strong public messaging around the illegality of child marriage and the harm it causes are among the reasons for the shift.

“When a girl is forced to marry as a child, she faces immediate and lifelong consequences. Her odds of finishing school decrease while her odds of being abused by her husband and suffering complications during pregnancy increase. There are also huge societal consequences, and higher risk of intergenerational cycles of poverty,” said Anju Malhotra, UNICEF’s Principal Gender Advisor. “Given the life-altering impact child marriage has on a young girl’s life, any reduction is welcome news, but we’ve got a long way to go.”

According to new data from UNICEF, the total number of girls married in childhood is now estimated at 12 million a year. The new figures point to an accumulated global reduction of 25 million fewer marriages than would have been anticipated under global levels 10 years ago.

However, in Viet Nam, there has been little to no change in child marriage rates reported by women 20 to 24 years from 2006 to 2014. Data shows that one in 10 women (aged 20 to 24) were married or in union before their eighteenth birthday in 2014. The prevalence among girls, aged 15 to 19 years, who were married almost doubled during 2006-2014, which has been increased from 5.4 per cent in 2006 to 10 per cent in 2014. It should be noted that this age group also consists of 18 and 19-year-old women, who fall outside the definition of child marriage.

Child marriage in Viet Nam is a complex practice driven by multiple factors such as gender inequality, economic situation, cultural norms and practices, adolescent pregnancy, low awareness of parents and children about the risks of internet and social media and the legal framework is not sufficiently enforced and is not effective for certain types of child marriage.

To end the practice by 2030 – the target set out in the Sustainable Development Goals – progress must be significantly accelerated. Without further acceleration, more than 150 million additional girls will marry before their 18th birthday by 2030.

“Each and every child marriage prevented gives another girl the chance to fulfill her potential,” said Malhotra. “But given the world has pledged to end child marriage by 2030, we’re going to have to collectively redouble efforts to prevent millions of girls from having their childhoods stolen through this devastating practice.”


Notes to editors

Multimedia content can be downloaded here.

Estimates of the global and regional prevalence of child marriage are calculated on the basis of national estimates in the UNICEF global databases, comprised of nationally representative data from over 100 countries. National data on child marriage are primarily drawn from household surveys, including the UNICEF-supported Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) and the USAID-supported Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS). Demographic data are drawn from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division.

Viet Nam’s data on child marriage are primarily drawn from UNICEF-supported Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS)


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