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New UNICEF data show need for urgent action on child marriage

LONDON/NEW YORK/BANGKOK, 22 July 2014 – The UK Government and UNICEF are hosting today a first-ever Girl Summit to rally support for much faster progress to end child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) – two practices that affect millions of girls across the globe.

UNICEF data released today show that while prevalence has decreased slightly over the past three decades, rates of progress need to be scaled up dramatically, simply to offset population growth in the countries where the practices are most common.

Twenty-five percent of girls and women married before the age of 18 live in East Asia and the Pacific. This is the second highest percentage in the world after South Asia. These girls are mostly from rural areas and from the poorest families.

“Child marriage and FGM profoundly and permanently harm girls, denying them their right to make their own decisions and to reach their full potential. They are detriments to the girls themselves, their families, and their societies,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “Girls are not property; they have the right to determine their destiny. When they do so, everyone benefits.”

According to the newly-released data:

• Child marriage is widespread and can lead to a lifetime of disadvantage and deprivation. Worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children. More than 1 in 3 – or some 250 million – were married before 15.
• Twenty-five percent of girls and women married before the age of 18 live in East Asia and the Pacific. This is the second highest percentage in the world after South Asia. These girls are mostly from rural areas and the poorest families.
• In Viet Nam, around 32 percent of women married before the age of 15 have three or more children by the age of 24, compared to around 2 percent of those married at 18 or after.
• In Indonesia, the risk of marrying before age 18 is less than half of what it was three decades ago.
• Girls who marry before they turn 18 are less likely to remain in school and more likely to experience domestic violence. Young teenage girls are more likely to die due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth than women in their 20s; their infants are more likely to be stillborn or die in the first month of life.
• If rates of decline seen in the past three decades are sustained, the impact of population growth means the number of women married as children (more than 700 million) will remain flat through 2050.
• Doubling the rate of decline would bring the number of women married as children down to 570 million by 2030 and 450 million by 2050.

“The numbers tell us we must accelerate our efforts. And let’s not forget that these numbers represent real lives. While these are problems of a global scale, the solutions must be local, driven by communities, families and girls themselves to change mindsets and break the cycles that perpetuate child marriage and FGM,” Lake said. “We can’t let the staggering numbers numb us – they must compel us to act.”

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About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work, visit www.unicef.org

Download multimedia content at: http://weshare.unicef.org/mediaresources

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For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact:

• Rose Foley, UK National Committee for UNICEF; Tel: +44 7584 228 343; rosef@unicef.org.uk
• Claire Blackburn, UK National Committee for UNICEF; Tel: +44 7838 555 618; claireb@unicef.org.uk
• Najwa Mekki, UNICEF New York, +1917 209 1804; nmekki@unicef.org
• Marixie Mercado, UNICEF New York, Tel: +1917 213 5188; mmercado@unicef.org
• Andrew Brown, UNICEF Bangkok, Tel: +66 2 356 9407; ambrown@unicef.org

 

 
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