How can child marriages be reduced?

Stop Forced Marriage Now

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  2. About plan
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  4. child protection
  5. Forced marriage

According to UNICEF, 700 million women living today worldwide were married before their 18th birthday. Every 9th girl in developing countries is married before the age of 15. Child and early marriages are common on all continents, but particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia. Every third woman married as a child lives in India alone.

Millions of girls are married off when they are children. Help us adopt a sponsorship!

What does forced marriage mean?

Forced marriages are marriages that involuntarily and against the will of one of the two partners getting closed. In parallel, the terms "early marriage" and "child marriage" are used. Under Child marriage a marriage is understood in which at least one of the spouses is not yet 18 years old. In many countries, girls are forced into marriage as soon as their bodies develop and they start menstruating. At this point, they are considered marriageable women.

The United Nations calls forced marriage one "modern form of slavery". It causes those affected to lose their childhood before they come of age. Forced marriage is a serious violation of children's rights. The girls are forced to leave school early and start a life with few professional or personal prospects. At the same time, the risk for them of falling victim to violence or abuse in a forced marriage increases.

Men also experience forced marriage, but women are more often affected. Often, child marriage is arranged by relatives or matchmakers. The affected girls then often live in isolation from their own families and friends.

Where is there child marriage?

All over the world minors are victims of forced marriages. This happens particularly often in countries where children are disadvantaged in terms of education and the exercise of their rights.

The highest proportion of women who are in a marriage before their 18th birthday is in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Almost half of all women there are married off early. Also in Africa there are many children who are affected by forced marriage. The proportion varies depending on the country. In Niger in West Africa, for example, 76 percent of women marry before their 18th birthday, 28 percent even before their 15th birthday.

Within the countries where Children's weddings practiced, there are sometimes considerable differences between rural and urban areas: In Ethiopia, for example, in the northern province of Amhara, 75 percent of girls are married early, while in the capital Addis Ababa it is 26 percent.

There is also a big difference between the poorest and richest families in a country. The average marriage age for girls from the poorest families in India is only a little over 15 years, while young women from wealthy families marry at an average of almost 20 years.

Early marriage in Zimbabwe

Why do many parents in developing countries - like here in Zimbabwe - often see early marriage of their daughters as the only solution? And what does that mean for the girls? Our managing director Maike Röttger will answer these questions in the video until March 2021.

Why are children forcibly married?

Reasons for forced marriages are often found within society. Tradition and social pressures, early pregnancy and poverty are the most common reasons to have one arranged marriage of minors to justify.

A Study by Plan International in West Africa found that underage girls get married when they no longer go to school, for example because they have failed the promotion exams. Then, when the girl is already pubescent, she is considered adult and the family sees the danger of having sexual contact.

If girls get pregnant before they get married, it hurts them in many societies Reputation of her family. Many families want to protect themselves from this and marry their children off early to ensure virginity. In addition, young women are better protected from sexual assault when they are married. This aspect of protection becomes even more important in the event of disasters and humanitarian crises.

Girls are also recognized by the community as adult women if they are married and have children. This social pressure is also created by peers who are already married and parents. The traditional image that the Nollywood films (romantic love films from Nigeria), which are very popular in West Africa, of the role of women also play a major role.

In Latin America too, girls often try to gain recognition as adults through marriage and motherhood. Marriage puts them in a different social status. Now the young woman has a home to look after. She can go out with her husband in the evening and has access to self-help and health groups. Especially when she is pregnant, she also gets more recognition and freedom than before.

In addition, poverty plays a major role in forced marriage. Early marriages are more common in poor families. This is because the "bride price" to be paid by the husband's family is lower for younger girls. On the other hand, the family has one less person to support.

 “I have three daughters - 17, 15 and 13 years old - and we will all marry them off together. They don't want to get married, but how do we explain that it's an expensive proposition? If someone earns well, they can afford multiple celebrations. If we do it in a celebration, we save money. "

(Mother of unmarried daughters, India)

“When you have a big family with lots of girls and you have nothing to eat […] and then a rich man comes and tells you that he wants one of your daughters. Then what should you do? Do you say no to him and watch your children die or do you agree and he takes your daughter with him and takes care of her and you also get money? "

(Mother in Niger)

What are the consequences of a forced marriage?

Forced marriage has far-reaching consequences for those affected. Marital violence, lack of education and early pregnancies are particularly bad for girls.

That affects theirs future strong and prevents them from developing freely.

No school after the wedding

No school after the wedding: After a child marriage, it is difficult for girls and boys to go back to school. They no longer have a chance to exercise their right to education. Affected girls spend most of the day doing household chores and have no time to go to school.

Problem: Marital violence

In forced marriages, young women are often exposed to sexual abuse and violence from their older husbands. Mothers-in-law make life even more difficult for young wives. They command the girls around and give them heavy housework. This often leads to conflicts. The husbands beat their wives to make it look like they have a grip on them.

Early pregnancy: Early pregnancies following child marriages are common. For example, pregnancy after a closed marriage is even socially expected. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 16 million girls between the ages of 15 and 19 give birth each year. The young girls are mentally and physically not yet prepared for pregnancy. The birth of a child leads to complications in many cases, and sometimes to the death of the young women. More info: Early pregnancy

What does Plan International do?

We at Plan International support the development of child protection structures in the communities. We educate parents as well as traditional and religious authorities about the negative consequences of child marriage and set up child protection committees in the communities. In this way we want to achieve a rethink in society and contribute to strengthening the rights of girls.

We use media such as radio, television and the Internet to educate about children's rights and forced marriage. We also offer young people the opportunity to complete an apprenticeship and thus improve their professional prospects. For girls in particular, self-employment is an alternative to early marriage.

So that girls don't have to take long and dangerous journeys to school, we support the construction of Girls' dormitories at secondary schools. There the young women can learn in safety and prepare for their graduation.

To the Income situation of families To improve and thus protect the daughters from early marriage, we are promoting the establishment of savings groups. These offer their members the opportunity to save up a joint credit, from which they in turn can receive small loans for investments. It is not uncommon for this to give you the chance to set up your own small company. This is how families can escape the cycle of poverty.

How we work

Plan International is a religiously and ideologically independent aid organization that campaigns worldwide for the opportunities and rights of children ...

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child protection

Children should be able to reach their full potential - we at Plan International have committed ourselves to this. We want their general welfare ...

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Child trafficking

It is estimated that more than a million children are trafficked each year. We want to abolish this type of modern slavery by ...

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