Globally, one girl under 15 gets married every seven seconds.
In Australia, the Federal Police have received 232 referrals relating to forced marriage since 2013.
Marriage before age 18, which is often forced, is a violation of children’s rights and has the devastating consequence of ending childhood before children are physically and mentally ready.
Save the Children Child Protection Advocate Karen Flanagan said the issue of underage and forced marriage was a global problem, with its prevalence in Australia being no exception.
“Children forced into marriage feel disempowered and are often deprived of their rights to health, education and safety,” Ms Flanagan said.
“Many factors can place a child at the risk of marriage, including poverty, the perception that marriage will provide protection, family honour, social and religious norms, and inadequate legal protections.
“It is critical that we do more to protect these victims of modern slavery in Australia and abroad by providing adequate protections and more robust and available avenues of assistance.”
And when we broaden our focus from the Australian context to a more global view, the problem of child marriage becomes even more acute. Research by Save the Children predicts that by 2030, over 150 million more girls will marry before their 18th birthday.
Child marriage is most common in the world’s poorest countries and is often concentrated among the poorest households within those countries. In families with limited resources, child marriage is often seen as a way to provide for their daughter’s future.
But girls who marry young are more likely to be poor and to remain poor. Child brides are frequently deprived of their rights to health, education and safety. They are at higher risk of experiencing dangerous complications in pregnancy and childbirth. They are frequently isolated and feel disempowered. And they are vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections and multiple forms of violence.
At 13, Aisha* from Somalia, should have been dreaming about her future—instead, she was forced to marry a stranger more than twice her age. At the time, she was still in school. Very soon she became pregnant and was regularly beaten by her husband. She was trapped and alone.
Sadly, Aisha isn’t alone in her suffering and by donating today, you can help girls like Aisha. Please donate
*Names have been changed to protect identity.