Child marriage down 15% over last decade, with big drop in India
Photo by UNICEF/UN062021/Vishwanathan
The number of women around the world who were married as children has dropped 15% in the last decade, according to new data from UNICEF. The group says if rates hadn't been lowered, 25 million more child marriages would have taken place.
Why it matters: An estimated 650 million women alive today were married as children, with the current rate down to about 12 million child marriages a year. But despite progress being made against the practice — which has been linked to sex trafficking, teenage pregnancy and domestic abuse — the UN's goal of eliminating child marriage by 2030 is far off.
In South Asia, the rate of child marriage has fallen from an astounding 50% down to about 30%, in large part thanks to increased access to girls' education and strong public messaging in India.
- The NY Times reported on this trend in the rural Indian state of Bihar, where 69% of women surveyed in 2005 said they were married as children.
- Indian lawmakers criminalized child marriage in 2006, but enforcement remains a challenge — especially in areas where families believe it can "shield [children] from unwelcome sexual advances and consolidate families’ status in a community."
- A review of census data revealed another disturbing trend: "In pockets of India, incidents of child marriage are decreasing in rural areas, but increasing in urban settings," possibly because people are relocating to cities.