Child, early and forced marriage

Each year, an estimated 15 million girls are forced into marriage. 1 in 3 girls in developing countries are married by the age of 18. 1 in 9 girls are married before the age of 15.

Each year, an estimated 12 million girls aged under 18 marry against their will.

This means there are currently more than 650 million women and girls worldwide who married as children.

Canada works to end child, early and forced marriage so that girls around the world can reach their full potential. They are empowered and can work toward a better future for themselves when they:

  • learn about and exercise their human rights
  • are able to take care of their health
  • are protected from violence
  • go to school

We are educating people about the devastating effects of child, early and forced marriage. We work in developing countries with girls, their families, communities and governments to eliminate this harmful practice.

The effects of child, early and forced marriage

Child, early and forced marriage is a global problem. There are child brides in every region of the world.

However, most girls forced to marry at a young age live in developing countries:

  • 40 percent of young women (20-24) in developing countries were married before the age of 18 (21 percent globally)
  • 12 percent were married before the age of 15 (5 percent globally)

Child, early and forced marriage occurs for a number of reasons including gender inequality, poverty, insecurity and tradition. Marrying at such a young age means that these young girls are forced into sexual relations and often get pregnant when they are not ready.

  • Girls and women forced into marriage are at high risk of sexual and gender-based violence.
  • Young mothers are more at risk of health complications.
  • Childbirth is the leading cause of death among girls between the ages of 15 and 19 in developing countries.
  • Child brides are also at a greater risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.
  • These girls tend to drop out of school at a younger age.
  • Young brides have little access to opportunities—such as holding a job outside the home.
  • When girls marry early, they and their families are more likely to live in poverty.

What Canada is doing to end it

Canada is raising awareness and generating action to end this harmful practice. The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes a target to end child, early and forced marriage.

To reach this target, Canada is:

  • raising awareness about child, early and forced marriage
  • investing in projects that prevent the practice
  • supporting girls and women who were child brides
  • building partnerships to fully implement the 2030 Agenda

Talking about the risks

Helping girls, their families and communities learn about the risks of child, early and forced marriage is critical to changing social norms and traditions.

Canada works closely with local partners in these countries to raise awareness and talk about the harmful effects of child, early and forced marriage.

Taking action at the local level

All sectors, including health and education, must be actioned to end child, early and forced marriage. It also requires the participation of UN agencies, governments, Canadian and international civil society partners and local community groups to:

  • empower girls
  • mobilize families and communities
  • provide services
  • establish and implement laws and policies

We support activities to end child, early and forced marriage around the world. Activities include:

  • working directly with girls to help them understand and exercise their rights
  • creating safe spaces where girls can learn life skills
  • creating safe places where girls can learn about their health and services available in their community
  • working with families and communities to change attitudes and behaviours including:
    • men and boys’
    • cultural and religious leaders’
  • working with parliamentarians to raise awareness about the negative consequences of child, early and forced marriage
  • Working with governments to strengthen laws and policies that prevent child, early and forced marriage

Working in partnership with the United Nations and regional organizations

Canada leads efforts to develop resolutions to end this practice. Member states at the United Nations General Assembly and at the Human Rights Council are committed to take action. Canada and Zambia developed the first-ever United Nations General Assembly resolutions on child, early and forced marriage—which were passed by consensus and support from all regions in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017.

At the Human Rights Council, Canada worked with other countries to develop and sponsor resolutions to eliminate child, early and forced marriage.

Canada has also worked closely with regional organizations, including the Commonwealth, la Francophonie and the African Union, to end child, early and forced marriage.

Working with partners toward common global goals

Key partners help us achieve our global goal to end child, early and forced marriage. Working with partners to implement projects in high-prevalence countries supports global efforts to create change for vulnerable girls.

These efforts include partnerships with organizations such as:

Related links

If you believe you are being forced into marriage, please visit our site on Forced marriage.

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