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The link between child marriage and violence against girls.

When my mother was 13, she was taken out of school and forced to marry a man from a neighboring village in Vietnam. She suffered daily beatings and assaults, until she finally escaped. Against immense familial and societal pressure to return to her abusive husband, she managed to build a life for herself in Vietnam, and then years later in the U.S. after meeting my father. According to Girls Not Brides, 1 in 7 girls in the developing world are married before they are 15, with some as young as 8 or 9. These girls face a far greater risk of experiencing domestic violence, not to mention dangerous premature pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases. My mother was lucky, for most child brides there is no escape.

Photo of Patrick Donohue
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In some communities, abuse from a spouse is not considered domestic violence and child brides suffer even more: being young places them at the bottom of the power relationship, and they have little hope for gaining more influence since they often missed out on educational and economic opportunities.

"Child brides are among the world’s most isolated and vulnerable groups. As minors they are unable to assert their wishes to their much older husbands or negotiate safe and consensual sex." - Girls Not Brides

There are a number of organizations and programs tackling the issue of child marriage, some are highlighted below.

Girls Not Brides:

Girls Not Brides is a global partnership of more than 300 civil society organisations from over 50 countries committed to ending child marriage. Their website is full of information about the impact of forced child marriage and the underlying reasons for its existence. It hosts a wealth of information on programs throughout the world that are tackling child marriage and empowering girls. 

"Traditions are made by us - and we can decide to change them. We should be respectful but we must also have the courage to stop harmful practices that impoverish girls, women and their communities." - GRACA MACHEL, MEMBER OF THE ELDERS, 

Girls Not Brides has a powerful "Girls Voices" section with girls stories that feature child marriage.

Apni Beti Apna Dhan

As an economic incentive to delay child marriage, in 1994, the local government of Haryana dedicated bonds to newly-born girls that can be cashed out after the girls turn 18 and only if they are unmarried. The first beneficiaries reached 18 in 2012, and a study conducted in 2009 found a number of benefits to girls in terms of education and health, but a study looking at impact on child marriage is still ongoing.  

Equality Now

"Child marriage legitimizes human rights violations and abuses of girls under the guise of culture, honor, tradition, and religion. It continues a sequence of discrimination that begins at a girl’s birth and is reinforced in her community, in her marriage and which continues throughout her entire life." 

Equality now released an extensive report on the importance of ending child marriage. The report includes a number of cases studies of child marriages, and highlights the need for national and international legal frameworks to prohibit child marriages.


Care provides a number of online resources and stories around the issue of child marriage.  
"Imagine the life those girls — who are 7, 10 or even 16 years of age — endure. Child brides have a diminished chance of completing their education and are at a higher risk of being physically abused, contracting HIV and other diseases, and dying while pregnant or giving birth."

Some of the programs Care is running or sponsoring:


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Photo of Jason Rissman

Great contribution Patrick. I had no idea how prevalent this practice is, how many people it effects and how young girl brides often are.

"According to Girls Not Brides, 1 in 7 girls in the developing world are married before they are 15, with some as young as 8 or 9."