Here’s proof that child marriage and poverty go hand in hand

Fatema,15, sits on the bed at her home in Khulna, Bangladesh, weeks after local child protection committee members and law enforcement agencies saved her from marriage. (Courtesy: UNICEF)

Some 700 million women alive today were married before they turned 18. More than one in three of them were married before they turned 15, according to new statistics released ahead of the first ever Girl Summit in London.

Some, like Lubaba Abdella in Ethiopia, have been taken out of school, married, divorced, and sent to work far from home before their 18th birthday, according to the Guardian.

Child marriage is a human rights violation and one that disproportionately affects poor girls.

Like Abdella, who was married when she was 16, they tend to be victims of cultural norms that turn young girls into commodities, according to a report by the Overseas Development Institute. But it only results in reinforcing poverty, disease and lack of education in their communities.

Women who are married as children become vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases and are less likely to receive an education or health care during pregnancy, according to UNICEF.

According to a new report by the British government and UNICEF, if efforts to end these practices continue at their current pace, the world will lose the battle altogether.

And while there is no easy solution to the problem, new data underscore one critical fact: that poverty and education often go hand in hand with practices that harm girls before they even become women.

Here's the proof:

1. In every region where child marriage is prevalent, poor women are most affected:


2. In the Dominican Republic, India and Bangladesh, for example, rich women marry years later than their poor counterparts. In India, where a third of the world's child marriages occur, and in the Dominican Republic, the gap between the median age of marriage for the rich and the poor is four years. 


 3. In all the places where more than 50 percent of women are married as children, those marriages are more common in rural communities.


4. Child marriage is more common among uneducated women in every country where it is still practiced. 


 5. Child-marriage rates have been decreasing, but if progress doesn't accelerate, the number of child brides will plateau by 2050.



Abby Phillip is a general assignment national reporter for the Washington Post. She can be reached at On Twitter: @abbydphillip
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