Child marriage as a way out of extreme poverty

Child marriage remains a stark violation of human rights despite international laws prohibiting it. This practice persists globally, disproportionately affecting girls in less developed regions. Worldwide, one in five girls is married or in a union before reaching the age of 18, a statistic that dramatically escalates in less developed countries where 40% of girls are married before 18 and a concerning 12% before 15. This article examines the serious implications of child marriage, exploring how it limits the health, education, and future opportunities of girls, and discusses effective strategies for eradicating this practice.

Devastating Impact on Girls’ Lives

Health and Mental Risks

Child marriage exposes girls to premature pregnancies, significantly increasing the risk of complications in pregnancy and childbirth, the leading causes of death among teenagers aged 15 to 19. Moreover, these young women often face a higher risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, due to their inability to negotiate safe sexual practices.

Disruption of Education and Long-Term Effects

Early marriage frequently leads to school dropout, denying girls the right to education. The lack of education has detrimental effects not only on women’s health outcomes but also on their economic well-being, perpetuating poverty cycles and limiting their future life options.

Underlying Factors of Child Marriage

Poverty and Gender Inequality

Child marriage is intrinsically linked to poverty and gender inequality. Many parents in poverty-stricken contexts see marriage as a way to secure their daughters’ futures, transferring the responsibility of their care to another family. In humanitarian crises, the fear of sexual violence may drive parents to marry off their daughters prematurely.

Dowries and Economic Considerations

In some cultures, dowries can influence the practice of child marriage. Whether paid to the bride’s or the groom’s family, the dowry affects parents’ decisions to marry off their daughters at an early age, often viewing them as a burden or commodity.

Strategies to Eradicate Child Marriage

Strengthening and Enforcing Laws

It is crucial to strengthen and enforce laws that prohibit child marriage and increase the legal age to marry to 18 years without exceptions. However, changing the cultural norms that support these practices is equally important and requires more than just legal interventions.

Promoting Education and Health Services

Ensuring access to comprehensive education, reproductive health services, and adequate prenatal care is fundamental. Educated and healthy girls are more likely to avoid early marriage and enjoy a broader range of personal and professional opportunities.

Support for Already Married Girls

Providing support to girls who are already married is vital. They need access to services that allow them to avoid unwanted pregnancies and diseases, as well as support to continue their education through formal or informal routes.


Child marriage is a practice that weakens the structure of our societies, limiting girls’ potential and perpetuating cycles of poverty and inequality. Although child marriage rates are declining, progress is not fast enough. We need a multifaceted approach that includes education, health services, legal support, and cultural changes to eliminate this harmful practice and enable all girls to reach their full potential. Only through concerted global efforts and community-based solutions can we hope to eradicate child marriage and build a fairer and more equitable future for the next generations.

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