Untying the Knot - Exploring Early Marriage in Fragile States

Publication Author: 
World Vision
Date: 
March 2013
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Tying the knot: an expression that for most of us evokes happy memories of one of the best days of our lives. However, the fun of planning the wedding and the heady excitement of the first weeks of marriage will not be the experience of 13.5 million girls this year. Instead, fearing threats, and encouraged or coerced into marriage as a means of protection, nearly one-in-three girls in developing countries will marry before the age of 18.

The younger the girl, the more harmful the consequences: I have seen girls as young as eight being married off to men decades older than them. The impact of sexual activity on children who are too young can be catastrophic. Children having children continues to be a common phenomenon across the developing world, with deaths caused by early pregnancy and birth complications the biggest cause of mortality for girls aged 15–19. Beyond the physical harm they face, is the complete loss of childhood. Children who marry do not play with their friends, are often not attending school, do not have access to opportunities for their future, and are confined within roles which bring responsibilities that they did not choose and often do not understand.

This report unravels the links between fragility and early marriage. By showing how marriage is used as a perceived means of ‘protection’ for girls, this report is a unique contribution to the evidence base of factors driving early marriage prevalence. Revealing the complex causes of this harmful practice, World Vision also identifies key actions that can be taken, both globally and by the UK Government, to reduce the stress on communities and provide families with alternative, effective means of really protecting their daughters.

Last year I travelled to Niger, where more than 75% of the country’s children marry before their eighteenth birthday. I met 12-year-old Zainab who fled home with her grandmother to escape being a child bride, having seen her big sister die in childbirth after an early marriage. This report tells of more girls – Faiza, Hanatou and Habon – whose stories reflect the experiences of millions of girls in need of protection and help today.

Our vision is that every child – no matter where they are born – can live life to the full, and have hope and a future. For more than 20 years we have been working to protect and rebuild the lives of children affected by violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect.

Our hope is that this report contributes to the evidence needed to protect girl brides from the harm of early marriage, and prevent the practice from affecting millions more in the decades to come.

To read the full report see the attached document. (pdf.)