LONDON (AP) â€” More than 700 million women alive today were married before they turned 18, the United Nations' children agency said Tuesday, as it co-hosts a London summit calling for more progress to end child marriages & the practice of female genital mutilation.
Figures released by UNICEF say child brides are most usual in sub-Saharan Africa & South Asia, & approximately one in three â€” or some 250 million â€” were married before they turned 15.
India alone accounts for a third of all the world's child brides, the agency said. Poorer girls are much more vulnerable: While the wealthiest girls in India marry at around 20 years old, the poorest do so at an average age of 15.
p>"Girls who marry before they turn 18 are less likely to remain in school & more likely to experience domestic violence," UNICEF said. "Young teenage girls are more likely to die due to complications in pregnancy & childbirth than women in their 20s. Their infants are more likely to be stillborn or die in the first month of life."
The agency said that while the percentage of girls being married as children is slowly declining, population growth means that the absolute numbers will remain high unless more drastic action is taken.
Some progress has moreover been made on ending female genital mutilation, most commonly practiced in Africa & the Middle East, UNICEF said. Countries including Iraq, Liberia & Nigeria have seen a significant drop in the past three decades, yet it is still highly prevalent in Egypt, Sudan, Mali & Somalia.
UNICEF & Britain's government hope that Tuesday's Girl Summit, which will be attended by Prime Minister David Cameron, will assist galvanize action to end both practices within a generation.
Cultural GroupsSociety & CultureUNICEFfemale genital mutilationUnited Nations
Source: “Associated Press”