A study by World Bank and Save the Children found that over 20 percent of the 7.5 million annual victims of illegal child marriages are in West Africa.
Globally, even after accounting for the possibility of exceptions to the legal age of marriage with parental or judicial consent, illegal child marriages make up 68 percent of all child marriages. That is more than 20,000 girls each day.
For it to be considered an illegal child marriage, a marriage must take place before a girl reaches 18 and before the minimum age for marriage in her country, with exceptions such as parental and judicial consent.
Kirsty McNeill, Save the Children’s policy, advocacy and campaigns executive director said: “We will not see a world where girls and boys have the same opportunities to succeed in life until we eradicate child marriage. When a girl gets married too young, her role as a wife and a mother takes over. She is more likely to leave school, she may become pregnant and suffer abuse.”
“Laws banning the practice are an important first step. But millions of vulnerable girls will continue to be at risk unless child marriage is tackled head-on. We need to change attitudes in communities so that we can end this harmful practice once and for all.”
Nearly two-thirds of underage marriages are taking place in countries where it is legally banned, suggesting laws are not enforced. In some countries, the minimum age for marriage is lower under religious law than national law, which undermines legal protection.
The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act states that a girl in India cannot marry before age 18, a boy before 21. However, nearly 30 percent of girls are married before they reach the legal age, according to census data.
In West Africa alone, 1.7 million girls are married below the minimum legal age every year, one of the highest rates globally.
The study suggests close to 100 million girls globally are not legally protected against child marriage.
Feature Image Via Quartz