Child, early and forced marriage is a harmful practice that disproportionately affects girls. Every year, 15 million girls are forced into early marriage. Imagine: that’s 1 every 2 seconds.
Early marriage denies girls their childhood, limits their access to education and increases their chance of teen pregnancy.
Yet child marriage is still a new topic to many, and there are some common misconceptions surrounding it – such as where it happens, in what context and who is involved.
By deconstructing what we think we may know about the issue, we can better understand how to address it and ultimately #endchildmarriage once and for all!
Here are 5 common myths you may have heard about child marriage:
MYTH: Child marriage only happens in certain developing countries
Truth: Child marriage is truly a global issue that is practiced in all parts of the world. Although rates of child marriage are highest in developing countries, child marriage still continues to happen in some parts of North America and Europe.
The highest rates of child marriage are found in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. In the 4 countries where child marriage is most common – Niger, Chad, Bangladesh and Central African Republic – more than 60% of girls are married by 18.
Other areas with high prevalence include Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa.
MYTH: Child marriage is a religious issue
Truth: Child marriage does not lend itself to one religion and is practiced across various faiths and ethnicities. Child marriage continues to be a cultural tradition, one that is reinforced by deeply-rooted traditional beliefs and social norms.
Research conducted by Plan International in West, Southern and East Africa shows that social norms and beliefs often determine marriage and childbearing as the main life path for girls.
Changing these types of social norms must come from within the community. Engaging boys, girls, mothers, fathers and community leaders is essential to creating lasting change!
MYTH: Child marriage doesn’t affect boys
Truth: Although the rate of child marriage is lower for boys, there are circumstances where they are forced into the early role of husband. According to UNICEF, 156 million men alive today were married as children.
Just like girls, boys under the age of 18 are also physiologically, socially and cognitively too young for marriage. However, the consequences are often far graver for girls.
Child marriage, no matter the gender, robs children of their childhood.
MYTH: Child marriage only happens between young girls and old men
Truth: Child marriage is exactly that – when a child is married before they’re 18. While unions between girls and older men do occur, it is not always the case. The age difference varies depending on country and region.
In some cases – like in the case of 16-year-old Punam and her young groom in Nepal – male youth are also being forced into early marriage.
MYTH: Child marriage should only concern the child and their parents
Truth: Child marriage affects everyone.
The consequences of child marriage go beyond the child and their family, ultimately reinforcing a vicious cycle of early marriage, low education, high fertility and poverty.
It’s this vicious cycle that has left families feeling that marriage is the only option to secure a future for their daughters. Girls are often married off to older men to alleviate families’ financial burdens in hopes that their husbands will take on their financial support.
Child brides are almost always forced to drop out of school. This not only limits a girls’ future prospects, but also her ability to contribute to her countries’ broader social and economic goals.
MYTH: We can’t do anything about child marriage
Truth: Progress has already been made towards ending child marriage. We’ve seen the power of involving youth and community members in the fight against early marriage. Recently, youth in Malawi campaigned to change the laws on child marriage and won!
Through our research and experience we know that education is the key to giving girls choices and opportunities. When a girl is educated, she will marry later, have fewer and healthier children, and earn a higher income. In fact, girls with secondary schooling are up to 6x less likely to marry as children compared to girls who have little or no education.
Investing in girls’ education can help break the cycle of poverty and end child marriage.
Together, we can #endchildmarriage
Ending child marriage will not happen overnight but change IS possible!
Show your support by joining the movement and say no to child marriage.