Due to accelerated progress over the last decade, a girl’s risk of marrying before her 18th birthday has dropped from one in four to approximately one in five, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Friday.
According to a statement issued in Accra and copied to the Ghana News Agency, the new data from UNICEF reveals that, there are 25 million fewer child marriages across the world than would have been anticipated 10 years ago.
It said, increasing rates of girls’ education, proactive government investments in adolescent girls, and strong public messaging around the illegality of child marriage and the harm it causes are among the reasons for the shift.
“When a girl is forced to marry as a child, she faces immediate and lifelong consequences. The odds of finishing school decrease while her odds of being abused by her husband and suffering complications during pregnancy increases.
“There are also huge societal consequences, and higher risk of intergenerational cycles of poverty”, the statement quoted Mr Anju Malhotra, UNICEF’s Principal Gender Advisor.
“Given the life-altering impact child marriage has on a young girl’s life, any reduction is welcoming news, but we have got a long way to go,” the report added.
It said although the prevalence of child marriage is decreasing worldwide, action would be needed to be step up to achieve the global target of ending the practice by 2030.
According to the statement, the UN agency estimates that 12 million girls are still married off each year, despite the reduction.
Eliminating child marriage and other practices harmful to women and girls are among the target under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The 17 SDGs focus on people, the planet and prosperity, and have a deadline of 2030, however, UNICEF said progress must be accelerated if the child marriage target is to be achieved by this date, warning that an additional 150 million girls could become brides by 2030, it said.
The statement mentioned that progress particularly needed to be scaled-up in sub-Saharan Africa where the global burden of child marriage was now shifting.
It noted that the region accounted for close to one in three of the world’s most recently married child brides, compared to one in five a decade ago.
Meanwhile, a 2016 UNICEF data has revealed that Nigeria has the world’s highest number of child brides with 49 per cent of Nigerian women married under the age of 18.