Child marriage exists around the world in the Middle East, South Asia, and in North and South Africa.
It cuts across culture and religion. It is an abuse of human rights on a huge scale.
The Council on Foreign Relations reviews this issue with a comprehensive InfoGuide that includes the short video overview below.
What drives child marriage?
According to the Council, "poverty, cultural norms, and the low societal value of women and girls" are the primary forces behind child marriage. For example, girls are not considered wage earners in many cultures so they are married off early.
Patriarchy also accounts for early marriage. In some societies girls are married off early to maximize their childbearing potential.
Religion in some cultures allow early marriage. In Ethiopia, for example, child marriage is embedded in some Orthodox Christian cultures and in some Muslim countries, a conservative interpretation of the Quran allows girls to marry when they reach puberty.
What is the cost child marriage?
The Council on Foreign Relations outlines at least four big problems.
The practice harms girls' health because it makes them more vulnerable to childbirth complications and it isolates them from their families and peers.
In addition, girls are often deprived of education and mired in poverty.
The Council on Foreign Relations includes profiles of the major countries involved in child marriage--India, Ethiopia, Niger, Afghanistan, and Guatemala and offers ways to combat it.
The essay also includes interesting graphics and images.