What is early marriage?
Early marriage is a global human rights crisis with profound consequences on girls’ health, opportunities, and freedoms. The practice perpetuates and arises from deeply ingrained beliefs maintaining the inferior status of girls and women. Cutting across countries, religions, cultures, and ethnicities, early marriage persists in spite of national laws and government interventions.
In many regions, it is the norm. If current trends continue, by the end of this decade 142 million girls will be married as minors. In South Asia, nearly half of young women are married before age 18. Early marriage occurs when a girl is married before she is legally, physically, or emotionally a woman. It means a very early start to a series of human rights violations and deprivations with lifelong impact. The practice leads to domestic and sexual violence, reproductive health problems,
physical and mental trauma, STIs including HIV, and death. It exacts a steep price from families, communities, and societies in terms of lost human potential.
Now is the time for action.
The world’s attention has never been more focused on gender equality and the rights of women and girls. Let’s seize this moment to make early marriage unacceptable and build a world in which all people enjoy their human rights and reach their full potential.
Ending early marriage requires deep culture change.
Ending early marriage requires understanding—and going to the deepest roots of—the culture in which it persists, as well as applying a framework of gender rights and human rights. Our formative research and resulting interventions, focused on two areas of India where early marriage rates
are particularly high, yield the following recommendations for preventing early marriage.