The Correlation between Female Genital Mutilation & Child Marriage

More than half of the girls in Bangladesh, Mali, Mozambique and Niger are married before the age of 18.  In these same countries, more than 75 percent of the people live on less than $2.00 a day.

The preparation of the traditional child marriage in certain parts of the world includes the rite of passage to womanhood.  In most of those societies, the rite of passage involves undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM). Millions of girls are forced into marriage while they are still under 18 years old.  The practice of child marriage is widespread throughout parts of the developing world.  One child bride tells how she underwent FGM at the age of 9 and two years later at 11 years old, she was married off to a 60-year old man.  She was a mother of 4 by age 16.

Wikipedia defines child marriage as a formal marriage or informal union entered into by an individual before reaching the age of 18. The legally prescribed marriageable age in some jurisdictions is below 18 years, especially in the case of girls; and even when the age is set at 18 years, many jurisdictions permit earlier marriage with parental consent or in special circumstances, such as teenage pregnancy.

A Child Bride in Nigeria

Child marriage is a reality for both boys and girls, although girls are disproportionately the most affected. Child marriage is widespread and can lead to a lifetime of disadvantage and deprivation.

Child marriage is a traditional practice that in many places happens simply because it has happened for generations. In some communities, when girls start to menstruate, they become women in the eyes of the community. Marriage is therefore the next step towards giving a girl her status as a wife and mother.  In parts of Liberia, the preparation for marriage includes circumcision on the girl.  Once she has been through FGM, the search for a husband commences.  In some cases, the search for her husband begins when she is born or at toddler age.  It depends on how eager her parents are to receive the required dowry from the future husband and his family.

Today, child marriage is still fairly widespread in developing countries, such as parts of Africa, South Asia, Southeast and East Asia, West Asia, Latin America, and Oceania. The incidence of child marriage has been falling in most parts of the world.

According to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), one third of girls in the developing world are married before the age of 18 and 1 in 9 are married before the age of 15.  The report states that if the present trend continues, 142 million girls will be married before their 18th birthday over the next ten years.  While countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage are concentrated in Western and Sub-Saharan Africa, due to population size, the largest number of child brides resides in South Asia.

Studies continue to show that girls with higher levels of education are less likely to be subjected to child marriage. In Mozambique, 60 percent of girls with no education are married before 18, compared to 10 percent of girls with at least secondary schooling and less than one percent of girls with higher education.  Educating adolescent girls is a critical factor in increasing the age of marriage in a number of developing countries, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand.  In most FGM practicing societies, the mother and grandmother are responsible for arranging the FGM rite of passage.  However it is the father who arranges the marriage of his young daughter, in exchange for a high-priced dowry.  The dowry can include from a number of cattle, precious gems, money and even farmland.  Education is the key to ending the practices of both FGM and child marriage.

The Top 20 Countries with Highest Percentage Rates of Child Marriage Niger (76.6%) Chad (71.5%) Bangladesh (68.7%) Mali (65.4%) Guinea (64.5%) Central African Republic (57.0%) Nepal (56.1%) Mozambique (55.9%) Uganda (54.1%) Burkina Faso (51.9%) India (50.0%) Ethiopia (49.1%) Liberia (48.4%) Yemen (48.4%) Cameroon (47.12%) Eritrea (47.0%) Malawi (46.9%) Nicaragua (43.3%) Nigeria (43.3%) Zambia (42.1).

A Child Bride in Nicaragua

Source: Analysis of Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data


Here are some facts and statistics:

It is estimated that girls younger than 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s.

Pregnancy is consistently among the leading causes of death for girls that are 15 to 19 years old worldwide.

Child brides face a higher risk of contracting HIV because they often marry an older man with more sexual experience. Girls ages 15 – 19 are 2 to 6 times more likely to contract HIV than boys of the same age in sub-Saharan Africa.

Girls who marry before 18 are more likely to experience domestic violence than their peers who marry later. A study conducted by ICRW in two states in India found that girls, who were married before 18 were twice as likely to report being beaten, slapped or threatened by their husbands than girls who married later.

Child brides often show signs symptomatic of sexual abuse and post-traumatic stress such as feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and severe depression.

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