UNICEF Report on child marriage


    In News

    • Recently, a UNICEF report stated that the prevalence of child marriage is decreasing globally.

    What is child marriage?

    • Child marriage refers to any formal marriage or informal union between children under the age of 18.

    Major highlights of the report

    • Role of Secondary and higher education
      • Secondary education can reduce child marriage by 66%. Two of every three child marriages would be stopped in the world only if all girls could complete secondary school.
        • Secondary education is a much stronger and more consistent protection against child marriage than primary school education. 
      • The numbers would fall 80 percent if all girls continued on to higher education.
    • Region wise assessment
      • The most progress in the past decade was seen in South Asia, where a girl’s risk of marrying in childhood dropped by more than a third to below 30 per cent.  
        • Still, the total number of girls married in childhood stands at 12 million per year.
      • Incidences of child marriage were the highest in West and Central Africa, where nearly 4 in 10 young women were married off before 18 years of age. 
        • Lower levels of child marriage are found in Eastern and Southern Africa (32 per cent), South Asia (28 per cent) and Latin America and Caribbean (21 per cent). 
      • In the regions of Ethiopia worst affected by the drought, child marriage has on average more than doubled in a year. 
        • The number of children at risk of dropping out of school across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia due to the impact of the crisis tripled within three months. 


    • Human Rights violation
      • It is a violation of human rights that limits girls in reaching their full potential. 
    • Deprivations
      • This harmful practice is closely associated with deprivations in education, health, access to resources and empowerment.
    • More issues in future
      • More than 100 million additional adolescent girls will marry by 2030 if efforts to curb the menace are not ramped up. 
    • Incompatibility 
      • In many countries, marriage and schooling are viewed as incompatible and decisions about removing a girl from school and marrying her off at a young age are often made at the same time.
    • Lack of education and employment
      • These decisions are influenced by the perceived value of education and the availability of employment opportunities for educated girls.
    • Quality primary education
      • Girls from poor, rural, conflict- and crisis-hit areas and marginalised groups will not progress to secondary education unless they have quality primary education.
    • Barriers in the transition
      • Secondary education, such as school fees, distance to school, safety also need to be reduced.

    Suggestions/ Way forward

    • SDG Goals
      • The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals call for global action to end this human rights violation by 2030.
        • Progress on SDG 5.3 (eliminating child marriage) is dependent on progress in other areas, especially education, employment and poverty reduction. 
    • International conventions and agreements 
      • The issue of child marriage has been addressed in a number of international conventions and agreements.
    • Programme by UNICEF and United Nations Population Fund
      • In 2016, UNICEF, along with United Nations Population Fund, launched a global programme to tackle child marriage in 12 of the most high-prevalence or high-burden countries: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Yemen and Zambia.
    • Global target
      • The global target is to eliminate child marriage practice by 2030. But reaching this goal would require coordinated action and additional investment.
        • To end child marriage by 2030, progress must be 17 times faster than the progress of the last decade. 
    • Other various measures: 
      • Support for development and participation of adolescent girls
      • Strengthening legal systems to protect the rights of adolescent girls and boys
      • Carrying out cutting-edge research to build a robust evidence base for advocacy, policies, programmes and tracking progress
      • Strengthening services to help adolescents at risk of, or affected by, child marriage, particularly girls, and
      • Raising awareness of the need to invest in and support girls, and shifting the social expectations that stifle their prospects.