The majority of these marriages are to men who are adults and often middle to old age. For every boy who is married before the age of 18 – 72 girls are married in Mali. In Kenya the ratio is 21 girls for each boy.
Various reports (according to Wikipedia) indicate that in many countries in equatorial Africa, there is a high incidence of marriage among girls younger than 15. But child marriage is also practiced in significant numbers in south Asia, the South Pacific (Oceana) and also, South and Central America. It is often stemmed in tradition but necessitated by extreme poverty. Like child prostitutes, parents are paid relatively large sums of money (often hundreds of US dollars) for virgins by their prospective bridegrooms.
There are many problems that often result from child marriage, including obstetric fistulae – a horrible condition, premature births, stillbirth, sexually transmitted diseases (including cervical cancer), and malaria. We can add to that death by childbirth, death by suicide, and death by internal injuries.
A 13-year-old Yemeni girl died of internal injuries four days after a family-arranged marriage to a man almost twice her age, a human rights group said. UK Daily Mail.
Also, in Yemeni, a 12 year old girl died along with her baby after 3 days of labour. See the YouTube report from CNN.
Nada al-Ahdal is the amazing, 11 year old, wouldn’t-be, child bride whom I introduced in “Incredibly, It gets even Worse” – a few posts below. She tells of her Aunt who was married at 14 and suffered so much pain that she committed suicide by dousing herself with gasoline and lighting herself on fire.
Hear and see Nada’s full gut-wrenching video.
Roughly half of Yemeni girls are married before 18, some by the age of eight, even though Yemeni law set the minimum age for marriage at 15; but tribal customs have often flouted the law. In 1999 the minimum marriage age of fifteen for women was abolished; the onset of puberty, interpreted by conservatives to be at the age of nine, was set as a requirement for consummation of marriage. In practice "Yemeni law allows girls of any age to wed, but it forbids sex with them until the indefinite time they’re 'suitable for sexual intercourse".
However, what is the probability that a new husband is going to honour that law? Not so much apparently. In April 2008, Nujood Ali, a 10-year-old girl, sued for divorce after being raped under these conditions. Her case prompted calls to raise the legal age for marriage to 18. Later in 2008, the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood proposed to define the minimum age for marriage at 18 years. The law was passed in April 2009, with the age voted for as 17. But the law was dropped the following day following maneuvers by opposing parliamentarians.
Nujood won her divorce and went on to win international awards, and she published a book, I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced.
In parts of Ethiopia and Nigeria numerous girls are married before the age of 15, some as young as the age of 7. In parts of Mali 39% of girls are married before the age of 15. In Niger and Chad, over 70% of girls are married before the age of 18, according to Wikipedia.
UNICEF's "State of the World's Children-2009" report found that 47% of India's women aged 20–24 were married before the legal age of 18, with 56% marrying before age 18 in rural areas. The report also showed that 40% of the world's child marriages occur in India.
In Bangladesh in 2005, 45% of women then between 25 and 29 were married by the age of 15.
The widespread prevalence of child marriage in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been documented by human rights groups. Saudi clerics have justified the marriage of girls as young as 9, with sanction from the judiciary. There are no current laws in place defining a minimum age of consent in Saudi Arabia.
In some south Pacific islands, children are introduced to sex at a very early age and it is not thought the least bit unusual. So marriage at a very young age is quite normal.
Percentage of women aged 20–24 who were married/in union before the age of 18:
Rank Country % girls married before 18
1 Niger 75
2 Chad 72
3 Bangladesh 66
4 Guinea 63
5 Central African Republic 61
6 Mali 55
7 Mozambique 52
8 Malawi 50
9 Madagascar 48
10 Sierra Leone 48
11 Burkina Faso 48
12 India 47
13 Eritrea 47
14 Uganda 46
15 Somalia 45
16 Nicaragua 43
17 Zambia 42
18 Ethiopia 41
19 Nepal 41
20 Dominican Republic 40
Of course, these are just the top 20 countries. Child brides happen everywhere. Also, while most of these countries are Muslim, the biggest country, India, is mostly Hindu, and several of the countries on that list are predominantly Christian.
We need to be praying and raising the profile of these victims of sexual abuse. What can you do?