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Child marriage usually refers to two separate social phenomena which are practiced in some societies. The first and more widespread practice is that of marrying a young child (generally defined as below the age of fifteen) to an adult. In practice this is almost always a young girl being married to a man.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
The second practice is a form of arranged marriage in which the parents of two children from different families arrange a future marriage. In this practice, the individuals who become betrothed often do not meet one another until the wedding ceremony, which occurs when they are both of a marriageable age. Which age this is differs by local custom. In most practicing cultures, this age is at or after the onset of puberty.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
Child marriage is prevalent in many cultures throughout human history, but has gradually diminished since some countries started to urbanize, changing the ways of life for the people of these countries. An increase in the advocation of human rights, whether as women's rights or as children's rights, has caused the traditions of child marriage to decrease greatly as it was considered unfair and dangerous for the children. Today, child marriage is usually only practiced in third world countries, where cultural practices and traditions remain and have a strong impact on the people, and where the living standards and conditions still create a strong incentive for child marriage. For example, it is still common in rural parts of Pakistan.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
Child marriages may have many purposes: The nobility of some cultures tend to use child marriage among different factions or states as a method to secure political ties between them. For example, the son or daughter of the royal family of a weaker power would sometimes be arranged to marry into the royal family of a stronger neighbouring power, thus preventing itself from being assimilated. In the lower classes, if they were fortunate, families could use child marriages as means to gain financial ties with wealthier people, ensuring their successions.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
In child betrothals, a child's parents arrange a match with the parents of a child from another family (social standing, wealth and expected education all play a part), thus unilaterally determining the child's future at a young age. It is thought by adherents that physical attraction is not a suitable foundation upon which to build a marriage and a family. A separate consideration is the age at which the wedding, as opposed to the engagement, takes place.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
Families are able to cement political and/or financial ties by having their children inter-marry. The betrothal is considered a binding contract upon the families and the children. The breaking of a betrothal can have serious consequences both for the families and for the betroven individuals themselves.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
Despite many countries enacting a marriageable age of 16-18, customary marriages are widespread. Poverty, tradition and conflict make the incidence of child marriage in Sub-Saharan Africa similar to South Asia.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
In many tribal systems a man pays a dowry to the girl's family in order to marry. This in many parts of Africa decreases as a girl gets older. Even before puberty it is common for a married girl to leave her parents to be with her 'husband'. Many of the marriages therefore are poverty related, with parents seeking a dowry to feed, clothe, educate and house the rest of the family. A male child in these countries is still more likely to gain a full education, gain employment/pursue a working life and therefore they tend to marry later. In Mali the girl:boy ratio of marriage before age 18 is 72:1; in Kenya, 21:1.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
The various UN commissioned reports indicate that in many Sub-Saharan countries there is a high incidence of marriage among girls aged less than 15. Many governments have tended to overlook the particular problems which child marriage has resulted in, including obstetric fistulae, prematurity, childbirth mortality, sexually transmitted diseases, including cervical cancer, and malaria.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
In parts of Ethiopia and Nigeria over 50% of girls are married before the age of 15. 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.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
In South Africa there are legal provisions made for respecting the marriage laws of traditional marriages, whereby a person might be married as young as 12 for females and 14 for males.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
the practice of minor marriage does exist in the muslim world while the islamic law allows for it provided no sexual relationship takes place unless the girl mature, minor age definition in the islamic law is below 15 yrs, the prophet Mohammed himself did marry Aisha at age of 9 but never lived with her till she got her menarche.
While child marriage is illegal in the United States, at least one religious group - the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has allegedly practiced child marriage as part of its polygamy. Church leader Warren Jeffs was convicted of being an accomplice to rape of a minor due to this practice.
Child marriage has been illegal in India since the passing of the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929. In this Act, the term child refers to a male younger than twenty-one, or a female younger than eighteen. A marriage falls under the scope of this Act if either of the contracting parties meets its definition of child.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
Every year children are still married illegally in India. Most of the child marriages in India take place in rural villages and areas, that usually have little legal supervision. Over time, child marriage has become a social taboo, with the majority of Indians believing it to be wrong. However, this still occurs.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
According to “National Plan of Action for Children 2005”, (Published by Department of Women and Child Development of India) a goal has been setup to eliminate child marriage completely by 2010. This plan has proved to be successful, but it is still very difficult to monitor all children due to the sheer size of the Indian Subcontinent.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
Child marriage has been restrained in Pakistan through the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929.[How to reference and link to summary or text] But still widely practiced in some areas through Vani and other ceremonies.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs is making progress in increasing women's education and employment opportunities. This, combined with specific education about child marriage and cooperation with religious leaders should help to decrease child marriage.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
South East Asia
Child Marriage Prevention Programs
The programs are organized as follows:
Implementing Organization, Program Name, Location; (Time Frame).
The prevention programs listed in this section are the results of a Web-based search of interventions addressing child marriage conducted by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) between March 2, 2006 and July 31, 2006.
Indian Institute of Young Inspirers, A Communication Strategy for the Promotion of Adolescent Reproductive Health, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India; (2003-2005).
This program developed innovative communication strategies for adolescents with an emphasis on sexuality, gender, violence and early marriage.
Mamta Health Institute for Mother and Child, Action Approach for Reduction of Early Marriage and Early Pregnancy in the State of Rajasthan, Rajasthan, India; (2002-2005).
This program sought to delay age at marriage and create an environment supportive of delayed first pregnancy through providing training on early marriage and early pregnancy (EMEP). It also created a newsletter for young people focusing on EMEP.
BRAC, Adolescent Development Programme (ADP), Bangladesh; (2000 – ongoing).
The ADP seeks to improve the quality of life of vulnerable adolescents, and to reduce child marriage through addressing child rights sensitization, child marriage, HIV/AIDS, involvement of parents and the community in girls’ participation in society, and other issues via life skills activities, non-formal education, community sensitization and income generation.
BRAC, Adolescent Reproductive Health Education (ARHE) Program, Bangladesh; (1995-ongoing).
The ARHE creates a curriculum for boys and girls age 12 and older with no education that includes physical and mental changes during adolescence, pregnancy, guidance about age at marriage, STIs, gender issues, male and female roles in reproduction, and violence against women and girls.
National Commission for Women, Amendments to Child Marriage Restraint Act, India; (1992-ongoing).
The National Commission for Women proposed amendments to the India’s Child Marriage Restraint Act including more stringent penalties for offenders and compulsory registration of all marriages. They organized anti-child marriage agitation in four states - Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.
Haryana Government, Apni Beti, Apna Dhan (My Daughter, My Pride) , India; (1994-ongoing).
The ABAD scheme entitles the mother of a newly-born girl-child to Rs. 500 and Rs. 2,500 per year, cashable only after the child is 18 years old. This program helps reduce infanticide and improve the status of girl children.
The Government of Nepal, UNFPA, Arrange the Marriage of Your Daughter After 20 Years of Age poster, Nepal, (1995).
The government of Nepal created materials encouraging parents to delay marriage of their daughters, including posters educating adults about the negative consequences of early marriage.
Plan International – Nepal, Basic Life Options, Nepal.
The program educates adolescents about sexual health, reproduction, legal rights and risks such as early marriage and sexual exploitation. There are campaigns to register births to protect children against early marriage in the future.
UNICEF, Pakistan Boy Scouts Association, Brothers Join Meena, Pakistan, Pakistan.
Through this program, each boy collects data from 10 neighboring households on health, sanitation and educational status. In return, the program provides information on various issues, including the importance of education for girls. They then monitor the progress of each household. The program empowers adolescent boys to promote and protect children’s rights, including the girl’s right to education – a key defense against early marriage.
International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), Development Initiative on Supporting Healthy Adolescents (DISHA) , Bihar and Jharkhand, India; (2003-2005)
This program helps increase access to family planning and reproductive health services for married and unmarried youth, delay marriage and childbearing, provide youth with alternatives to early marriage through enhanced livelihoods skills and options, and build the capacity of local NGOs to promote the reproductive health of young people.
Bangladesh Women's Health Coalition, Academy for Educational Development (AED), John Snow International (JSI), Empowerment of Women Research Program, Bangladesh; (2003 to 2005).
This program focuses on empowering women and address topics such as delayed age at marriage, postponement of childbearing and improved economic opportunities. They use research on factors influencing decisions on timing of marriage and childbearing to develop national and local interventions.
The Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO), Family Welfare Programme, India; (1993).
TISCO sought to establish a model of corporate action to help young people become informed on sexual and reproductive health matters in order to prevent child marriage, premarital sex and deaths of young mothers. Income was generated for the project through performances of the CFI Drama Troupe consisting of unemployed young people.
Population Council, Child In Need Institute-Kolkata, Deepak Charitable Trust-Vadodara, International Institute for Population Sciences-Mumbai, First-time Parents Project, India; (2003-2005).
The project organized activities providing reproductive health information to married girls, their partners and influential adults and empowering young, married women through group formation.
Child Survival India, Gender Sensitization Programme, India.
A gender sensitization program in schools and the community that promotes community discussions and debates on gender inequalities, including early marriage, in order to find effective solutions.
PCI, Hum Raahi (Come Along With Me) soap opera, India; (1991-1994).
A television serial promoted women’s equality and development, encouraging education, delayed marriage, the equal value of girl children and other health issues to an estimated 100 million viewers.
Government of Indonesia, Indonesia’s National Marriage Act, Indonesia; (1974).
Indonesia’s National Marriage Act made marriage registration in parts of the country dependent on evidence that the marriage is neither forced nor polygamous and on attendance at an educational session on reproduction.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Department of Foreign Technical and Economic Cooperation of Dingxi Prefecture, Culture Department of Dingxi Prefecture, Integration Population Education Programs of Rural Youth in China, China; (1994-1995).
Pilot school projects reported that following exposure to population education, students who had agreed to postpone marriage were sticking to their agreement.
Institute for Health Management, Pachod (IHMP), International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), Life Skills Intervention on Age at Marriage in Maharashtra, Rural Maharashtra, India; (1999-present).
The program led community-based life skills intervention to delay marriage, improve health and social status, promote self development and increase girls’ self-confidence.
Myrada, Plan International, Madakasira Project, India; (unknown-2009).
Organized children’s groups in one community to address child marriage and bonded labor.
International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), EngenderHealth, New ERA Ltd., BP Memorial Health Foundation, Nepal Adolescent Project (NAP), Nepal; (1998 to 2003).
An “Information, Education and Communication” (IEC) program included discussions on reproductive health topics for youth and community fairs to provide information to young people to increase adolescents’ knowledge of reproductive health and to change social norms around early marriage and childbearing.
Pathfinder International, PRACHAR Project: Promoting Change in the Reproductive Behavior of Youth, Bihar, India; (2001-2005). The program conducted trainings and community meetings to teach adolescents about STIs, HIV/AIDS, and delaying and spacing children with the plan of improving reproductive health and changing traditional customs of early marriage. The program teaches families and respected elders/leaders about benefits of delaying and spacing children. Sources: 
The Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) of the Socio Legal Information Centre (SLIC), MacArthur Foundation, Reproductive and Sexual Rights of Young People in India, India; (2003-ongoing).
This is a program of education and dissemination of information on gender-just laws and the promotion of judicial recognition of reproductive health as a part of the fundamental right to health, in support of legal initiative to discourage early marriage in India.
Government of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Child Marriage Legislation, Sri Lanka; (1995)
Legislation was passed that was successful in raising marriage age by driving legislative reforms requiring that all marriages be registered and that consent of both marriage partners be recorded. Specific cases of non-consensual marriages arranged by parents was deemed invalid.
Government of Bangladesh, World Bank, The Female Secondary School Assistance Project (FSSAP), Bangladesh; (1993-ongoing).
This program seeks to increase enrollment of girls in secondary school and delay marriage by addressing financial and other constraints for attending school. Parents are required to sign a bond that daughters will not marry before age 18.
UNICEF, BRAC, the Centre for Mass Education in Science (CMES), The Kishori Abhijan project, Bangladesh; (2001-2004).
This program provided girls with livelihood and leadership skills, peer education sessions on early marriage and reproductive health. Communities, parents and adolescent boys were sensitized to girls’ needs and rights. The program also sponsored nation-wide advocacy campaigns.
Sajeda Amin, Ian Diamond, Ruchira T. Naved, and Margaret Newby, Transition to Adulthood of Female Garment-factory Workers in Bangladesh, Bangladesh; (1998).
This project conducted research to determine the effect of working in garment industry on female workers, including effect on age of marriage.
Government of Uttar Pradesh, UP Population Policy 2000, India; (2000-2016).
This program increases awareness about legal age at marriage using electronic media for dissemination. It seeks to ensure that panchayats maintain records of all marriages in their jurisdiction. It uses women’s groups and religious and community leaders to change values and attitudes about child marriage.
CARE International – Eritrea, Haben, A Community-based Prevention and Response Program for Gender-based Violence, Gash Barka Zone of Eritrea; (2001-2004).
Local clinics established support groups for women to address gender equity, domestic violence, and Female Genital Cutting. Public awareness programs incorporated community-based and mass media awareness-raising activities. Early marriage was not originally an objective, but was raised as a concern by community members and was later incorporated into programming objectives.
Population Council, Adolescent Health and Information Projects, Federation of Muslim Women Associations of Nigeria, Addressing Child Marriage in Northern Nigeria, Nigeria; (2005-2009).
Collaborating with religious, female and community leaders, the intervention raises awareness and promotes dialogue on child marriage through existing community forums and radio spots.
World Learning for International Development, Basic Education Strategic Objective (BESO II) Community-Government Partnership Program (CGPP), Ethiopia; (2002-ongoing).
The program seeks to promote gender equity, including ongoing campaigns against early marriage and female circumcision. It promotes the value of education for girls and involves men in advocating for delaying age at marriage.
Population Council, Ethiopian Ministry of Youth and Sports, Berhane Hewan, Amhara region, Ethiopia; 2004-2008.
The program promotes functional literacy, life skills and reproductive health education. Economic incentives (receiving a goat) encourage families to allow their daughters to participate in girls’ groups and to remain in school.
Christian Children’s Fund (CCF), Christian Children’s Fund of Ethiopia program, Ethiopia; (ongoing).
The program raises community awareness around the physical dangers of child marriage.
Christian Children’s Fund (CCF), Christian Children’s Fund of Uganda program, Uganda; (ongoing).
Working with communities to combat the practice of forcing girls into marriage with men who have raped them due to the belief that they are “spoiled.”
Christian Children’s Fund (CCF), Christian Children’s Fund of Zambia program, Zambia; (ongoing).
Focus on bringing girls back to school, promoting reproductive health education in schools and delaying marriage.
World Learning for International Development (WLID), USAID, Community Action for Girls' Education (CAGE), Benin; (2001-2004).
This program rescued trafficked girls and girls in danger of early marriages. It advocated for girls’ schooling and enabled family and community dialogues on gender equality and early marriage.
The Association for the Protection of the Environment (APE), Egypt’s Maqattam garbage settlement, Egypt; (1995).
The program taught girls rug-making, paper recycling, and embroidery projects. A sum of E£500 (US$148) was offered to any girl who deferred her marriage until age 18, and who entered marriage of her own free will.
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Communication Programs / Health Communication Partnership – Egypt Field Office, The Academy for Educational Development (AED), Family Planning Project - Egypt, Egypt; (1988-1993).
The program was a mass multimedia program that targeted young married women to address family planning issues. It focused on increasing communication between spouses, promoting male responsibility and reducing early marriage. It used 17 – 50 minute TV or radio drama episodes, contests, music videos and soap operas.
Population Council, PATH Kenya, Kendu Adventist Hospital, Highlighting Marital Risk and Promoting Premarital Voluntary Counseling and Testing in Nyanza, Kenya; (2005-2008).
This project is a large-scale educational campaign on dangers of early marriage and promoting Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) for HIV among newly married couples and those considering marriage. It uses community theater, radio broadcasts and religious leaders to raise awareness. The project demonstrated local demand for increasing age of marriage by building on a meeting of religious leaders.
CARE International UK, Integrated Women’s Health and Empowerment Program (IWEP), Gash Barka Zone of Eritrea; (2006-2008).
The project is designed to strengthen coping mechanisms of women-headed households in poor, conflict-affected communities in Eritrea. It raises awareness about reproductive and sexual health, HIV/AIDS, female genital mutilation and early marriage. It aims to strengthen relevant national support structures and existing services.
Save the Children Egypt, Population Council, ISHRAQ project, Egypt; (2001-2004).
This program worked to improve life opportunities for rural out-of-school girls, ages 13-15, by improving literacy, recreational opportunities, livelihood skills, health practices and mobility; positively influencing social norms about girls; improving local and national support for girl-friendly policies; and developing positive attitudes of communities and families toward educating girls. The efforts reduced acceptance of early marriage.
Moroccan government, King of Morocco Calls for Fundamental Reform in Family Law, Morocco; (2003).
Morocco’s new family code raised the minimum age of marriage for girls, making it the same age as for boys. The government also organized a large-scale media campaign to raise awareness of the new law and encourage behavior change.
Christian Children's Fund (CCF), Naningoi Girls’ Boarding School, Kenya; (1999-ongoing).
This program seeks to rescue underage Maasai girls from early marriage and enroll them in formal studies instead.
The Centre for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA), New Horizons Program, Egypt; (1994-2004).
This was a non-formal education program for girls. Girls were given 100 sessions of life skills training and reproductive health knowledge, including the issue of marriage. It was implemented through 365 NGOs and youth centers.
Family Health Options Kenya (formerly Family Planning Association of Kenya), Plan International Kenya, Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), Kenyan Ministry of Education and Health, Options Project for Improving the Status of Women, Kenya.
This program identifies girls married at an early age and lobbies to have marriages dissolved; and provides shelter and education for girls released from forced marriage. It raises community awareness through information, education and communication (IEC) materials.
Forum on Marriage and the Rights of Women and Girls, Ouagadougou Declaration on Early and Forced Marriage, Burkina Faso, Ghana, The Gambia, Mali, Nigeria and Sudan; (2003).
This declaration calls upon governments to end child marriage.
The Futures Group, USAID, POLICY Project, Malawi; (2002-2004).
This project reviewed all HIV-related laws and policies, and proposed amendments. It lobbied with the law commission and parliament to change the legal age of marriage to16.
Nike Foundation; Population Council; United Nations Foundation; United Nations Population Foundation (UNFPA); and the Ethiopian Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, Preventing Early Marriage in Ethiopia, Ethiopia.
In rural areas, girls receive non-formal education and health information and services. Open dialogue encourages community members to expand traditional options for girls, including delaying marriage. In urban slums, the program aims to promote safety and social support for girls.
Tostan, Senegal, Program on the Abandonment of FGC and Early Marriage, Senegal; (1982-ongoing).
A holistic basic education program where over 12,000 villagers attended regular classes on democracy, human rights, problem-solving, hygiene and health. Training in implementing practical development activities follows, involving all community members and leading to declarations against female genital cutting (FGC) and early marriage.
Coalition of Nigerian NGOs, Role of NGOs in Implementing the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA), Nigeria; (1995-2005).
The NGOs pushed for legislation (Child Rights Bill) to outlaw marriage before the age of 18 and to ensure that girls who have babies during their school years continue their education.
Creative Centre for Community Mobilisation (CRECCOM), USAID, Social Mobilization Campaign for Educational Quality (SMC-EQ), Malawi; (1998-2004).
The program used a social mobilization approach to mobilize individuals and communities to support education, particularly for girls. It also included a message about delaying marriage.
Pugsada, Support Centres for Girl Brides in Burkina Faso, Burkina Faso; (1998).
Puksata, a local NGO, works with three Catholic religious centers that shelter girls who have run away from forced or early marriage. Puksata works with the centers to provide the girls with vocational training and mediates between the families and the girls.
Population Council, K-Rep Development Agency (KDA), Tap and Reposition Youth (TRY), Kenya; (1998-2005).
The project hopes to ascertain whether the experience of running a business can alter a girl’s self-image and her relationships with others. Reproductive health training is included as a component of the project.
World Vision Ethiopia, The Adjibar Safe Motherhood Project, Ethiopia.
The project works in collaboration with the local government, schools, community and influential religious leaders on all aspects of safe motherhood, including: education on the harms of early marriage, family planning, HIV/AIDS education, and pre and post-natal care.
Oxfam Great Britain, government of Kenya, The Mobile School Project, Kenya.
This is a non-formal education program for girls not attending school that led to a fall in early marriage and helped women assert themselves.
Communication for Change (C4C), American Refugee Committee (ARC), Through Our Eyes Project, Guinea and Liberia; (2006).
In this community media project, audiences watch videos, discuss themes raised in them and share personal stories. One video covers forced marriage.
Pathfinder International, Women's and Girl's Empowerment Project, Ethiopia.
Working with religious leaders, and organizational partners, such as the Ethiopian Women’s Lawyers Association to address AIDS and change cultural practices, including early marriage.
Plan International, Malawi.
Community sensitization and training on children’s rights, and developed a district-level child protection policy. They also assisted in lobbying for bills on increasing the age of marriage and birth registration.
Plan International – Niger, Niger.
This project works with village leaders to reinforce importance of girls’ education and school youth programs. On the national level, it works with Ministry of Social Affairs to implement the Code for the Child to discourage early marriage.
The Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA), Ethiopia.
The hospital has a joint program with EWLA to advise patients of their rights. Hospital outreach centers alert women's groups in the provinces to the dangers of early marriage and childbirth. EWLA campaigns for observance of the legal marriage age.
Population Council, Creating Opportunities for Mayan Adolescent Girls, Guatemala; (2004-ongoing).
This project supports schooling for girls and increasing livelihood skills. Girls meet weekly for life skills, financial literacy, functional literacy, sports and possibly microfinance activities, all aimed at delaying marriage.
UNICEF, Meena Initiative (South Asia) and the Sara Adolescent Girl Communication Initiative (East and Southern Africa), South Asia, Eastern Africa and Southern Africa; (1995-1999).
The young cartoon heroine of a multimedia package is a catalyst for discussion on the importance of staying in school, HIV/AIDS, domestic workload, FGM/FGC and early marriage.
UNFPA, UNIFEM, UNICEF, the Population Council, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Bangladesh, Ethiopia and India.
This is a special project to improve social and economic opportunities for adolescent girls by producing evidence-based strategies to find feasible alternatives to child marriage. It includes mobilization of community and opinion leaders.
- ↑ Ibn Warraq, Why I Am Not a Muslim, p. 320, Prometheus Books, 1995, 0879759844
- Child Marriage - (Bal Vivaaha)
- Forced child marriage tests Pakistan law — BBC News
- Child Marriage Eradication Programme by Adarsh Samaj Sahyog Samiti
- The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929
- NOW on PBS - Child Brides: Stolen Lives
- Child Marriage — A film by Neeraj Kumar
- Too Young to Wed: The Lives, Rights and Health of Young Married Girls - International Center for Research on Women
- New Insights on Preventing Child Marriage: A Global Analysis of Factors and Programs - International Center for Research on Women
- UN Population Fund factsheet, 2005
- United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)
- International Conference on Population and Development programme of action (priorities and statistics)
- Centers of Disease Control and Prevention
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