Child Marriage: Who is a Child?

YGB Blog

Mon, January 13, 2014 4:29pm

Child Marriage: Who is a Child?

"About 40% of child marriage takes place in India..." from UN Women India, exactly what YGB is fighting with "Sister Aid" funding program. "... Child marriage remains widespread across the world, disproportionately affecting girls and endangering their lives and livelihoods.

Learn more about the issue through this interactive presentation by Council on Foreign Relations


Several international legal conventions outlaw child marriage, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. These conventions, however, have minimal enforceability on the ground, as they largely defer to signatory countries to take action. Nevertheless, the language of these conventions establishes an international standard against child marriage.

Worldwide, eighteen is the baseline legal age of marriage, but many countries allow persons under that age to marry with the consent of parents or judicial authorities. Roughly three dozen countries allow children age fifteen or younger to get married with parental consent. Many more countries allow girls to marry with consent at younger ages than boys, highlighting that early marriage is a gendered phenomenon.

Publicized cases have cast an international spotlight on child marriage and spurred calls to legislative action. The 2008 divorce of ten-year-old Nujood Ali, a Yemeni girl married to a twenty-one-year-old man, sparked international pressure for legislative efforts to raise the country’s minimum age of marriage to seventeen, although the push was ultimately defeated.

Other countries have undergone fierce political battles to establish a minimum age for marriage. Some groups argue on religious or cultural grounds that child marriage should not be outlawed. Controversy over child marriage regulations has arisen recently in Nigeria, where in 2013 senators failed to reach a supermajority vote to strike down a constitutional provision under which married girls are considered adults. The episode spurred a backlash against child marriage throughout the country, which received support from activists around the world.

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