Child marriage occurs worldwide, but is particularly prevalent in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. According to UNICEF, around 12 million girls are affected by child marriage each year. Rates are particularly high in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

South Asia: Countries like India, Bangladesh and Nepal have some of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. In Bangladesh, about 59% of girls are married before their 18th birthday.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Niger has the world’s highest rate of child marriage at around 76%, followed by the Central African Republic and Chad.

Latin America and the Caribbean: Child marriage is also a problem in this region, especially in countries such as Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

Western countries: Child marriages also occur in Western countries. In Germany, they are carried out illegally or the children are taken abroad to marry. Such marriages are not recognized in Germany. In the USA, child marriages are legal in many states if the parents or guardians agree.

The prevalence of child marriage varies considerably between and within countries. Girls are affected much more often than boys, and girls are often between the ages of 12 and 17 when they marry.

Around 1 in 5 girls worldwide is married before her 18th birthday. In the world’s poorest countries, statistically, one in three girls is married before her 15th birthday.

The causes of child marriage are varied and often interrelated. The main factors include:

Child marriages have serious consequences for the children involved, who are mostly girls.

Girls who are married early are at higher risk of health complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Child brides are often not physically mature enough for a safe pregnancy.

Girls who marry early tend to drop out of school, which limits their career opportunities and economic independence.

Girls who marry early are more vulnerable to domestic violence and abuse. They are usually physically inferior to their husbands, who are usually much older, and have little to no chance of escaping the marriage.

Girls in forced marriages often suffer serious psychological damage. They often suffer from depression, anxiety or even suicidal thoughts.