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Child Marriage Is Stunting Development

Born of antiquated patriarchal traditions and sustained by ignorance, poverty, and socioeconomic inequality, child marriage remains widespread. Not only is that a gross violation of girls' human rights; it also rules out achieving several of the Sustainable Development Goals.

FEZ – At last month’s United Nations summit on the Sustainable Development Goals, child marriage did not get top billing. Yet ending this cruel practice – which steals girls’ childhoods, bodily autonomy, and chance to build their own futures – is essential to achieve a range of SDGs, including securing gender equality, improving health, and delivering a quality education and economic opportunities to all.

Born of antiquated patriarchal traditions and sustained by ignorance, poverty, and socioeconomic inequality, child marriage remains widespread across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. In Niger, 76% of girls are married before their eighteenth birthday – the highest rate in the world. Next on the list are the Central African Republic (68%) and Chad (67%). In the Middle East, 32% of girls in Yemen are married, followed by Iraq (24%) and Egypt (17%).

In total, more than 12 million underage girls are married off each year. That is 12 million girls who, through no decision of their own, have their childhoods – and, more than likely, their education – cut short and replaced by the obligation to endure multiple physically taxing, potentially life-threatening pregnancies, raise a family, and maintain a household.

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