Shocking Details About Child Marriages

by May 10, 2022

Child Marriages – The shocking details


I came across shocking details about child marriages last week., every seven seconds, a girl under 15yrs old marries. 


I came across shocking details about child marriages last week. Child marriage occurs in every geography across the world. Research from the European Commission Women’s Rights  Division suggests that about 15 million girls below the age of 18 marry each year – one every two seconds. Every seven seconds, a girl under 15 marries. Most girls marry men over age 18 – in some cases, much older.

But the stats I saw which raised my eyebrows did not come from an undeveloped country cut off from the rest of the world. The stats came from the world’s most powerful economy and culture. The United States of America.

child marriages

I am embarrassed to confess to being totally ignorant on this topic and decided to dig a little deeper and educate myself.

Child marriages

UNICEF defines a child as someone under the age of 18. Ironically, while children in the US can get married, they are not yet entitled to file for divorce or seek shelter in case of domestic violence.

A report United States’ Child Marriage Problem by Unchained at Last, an NGO which fights forced and child marriage in the US, reveals some shocking details and certainly data that I didn’t know. The fact that these marriages take place at all, anywhere, is rooted in deep-seated gender inequality and abusive patriarchy. In many countries, this practice would be considered domestic abuse and even a violation of human rights. But in others, it is still acceptable.

    • In the U.S. about 300,000 children some as young as 10 were married between 2000 and 2018. These were mainly girls (86%) who married adult men
    • Child marriage is still legal in 44 states.
    • As of July 2021, six states have banned underage marriages, with no exception: New Jersey (2018), Delaware (2018), Pennsylvania (2020), Minnesota (2020) Rhode Island (2021) and New York (2021). American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands, United States territories, have also ended child marriage during that time.

The marriages are not typically between two children (14%) but between minors and adults. 60% were to men aged 18-20 but in extreme cases, the male adult was over 40 years old and even 60.


child marriage

Cover for child rape

An alarming element of this is that apparently, the marriage can be a cover for child rape or even incest. @Dawnbtyree reported on Twitter

The federal criminal code prohibits sex with a child aged 12 to 15, but exempts those who first marry the child. Unchained suggests that “this incentivizes child marriage and implicitly endorses child rape.”

Worth a read: Does our system stop women speaking up against sexual assault? 

Other locations

There is also work to be done in the EU. A number of EU member states still permit child marriage. Several countries – the Netherlands, Germany, and Sweden – have banned child marriage (and non-EU Norway is considering doing so). Other countries including Austria, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom, allow minors to marry under some circumstances.

Raising the legal age of marriage to 18 only took place in the UK in 2021. There is also no law to prevent religious or cultural marriages that happen under those ages and are not officially registered with local councils. The practice is still going on and the Office of National Statistics data showing that 3,300 marriages involving children took place in England and Wales between 2006- 2016.

The UK made forced marriage, which is still common in some cultures, illegal in 2014. But it still is not enough to protect teenage girls who may be required to testify against the perpetrators, typically their parents. This means the number of coerced 16 and 17-year-olds is hard to quantify.

Worth a read: How to outlaw harassment with cultural change

I cannot imagine what it would be like to be a victim of legally endorsed and therefore institutionalised child rape. Long-term psychological trauma, abuse to a body not yet fully formed, high risk for associated medical conditions, and even death. These child brides also develop psychiatric and mental health issues in adult life caused by sustained childhood abuse.

So as we look in amazement as a cohort of justices try to undermine Roe vs Wade when 80% of a country is pro-choice, we have to be mindful and not take our hard-won rights for granted.


 Workplace sexual harassment is part of a toxic culture that needs to change. Contact 3Plus for further information

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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