Updated: Dec 17, 2019
UNICEF defines child marriage as union of girls or boys under the age of 18 years. Child marriage is considered a form of violence and exploitation and it affects girls more disproportionately than boys. As of 2016, UNICEF data shows that Africa Sub Saharan and South Asia are highest in child marriage with 3 out 10 subjected to underage union. The numbers for above regions inflate from 10% for children married under the age of 15 to about 30% for children married under the age of 18 years; this is a 20% jump between the ages of 15 to 18 years. The above regions are followed by Latin America & Caribbean, Middle East & North Africa and East Asia & Pacific where 2 out 10 children are subjected to child marriage. (Refer to Exhibit 1)
Higher percent share of underage girls are married each year, leading to problems such as low education rate, adolescent pregnancy, domestic violence and high maternal mortality ratio. It is a contributing factor to the widening gender gap for girls at an early age. Regions with high gender inequality and low gender development are also high in child marriage, largely affecting girls. As of 2016 UNICEF data shows that percent share of adolescent girls married or in union is extremely high compared to boys. WHO defines age of adolescence as between 10 through 18 years. About 20% of adolescent girls are married or in union in Africa Sub-Saharan and South Asia; followed by about 12% in Latin America & Caribbean, Middle East & North Africa and East Asia & Pacific. On an average about 12% of adolescent girls are married or in union compared to about only 3% of adolescent boys. (Refer to Exhibit 2). Combining the top three regions (Africa Sub Saharan, South Asia and Latin America & Caribbean), about 80% of children are subjected to child marriage under the age of 18 with 50% of adolescent girls still married or in union.