25 million child marriages prevented in last decade, according to new UNICEF estimates

In Kyrgyzstan, a new Law forbids child religious marriages.

07 March 2018
a girl in a refugee camp in Iraq

NEW YORK/BISHKEK, 7 March 2018 – The prevalence of child marriage is decreasing globally with several countries seeing significant reductions in recent years, UNICEF said today. Overall, the proportion of women who were married as children decreased by 15 per cent in the last decade, about 25 million fewer marriages than would have been anticipated under global levels 10 years ago. Despite this progress, the total number of girls married in childhood is now estimated at 12 million a year globally.

In Kyrgyzstan, 12.7 per cent of women aged 20-49 got married before the age of 18 according to UNICEF survey. The birth rate among adolescent girls aged 15-19 is the second highest in the region.  Today Laws forbidding both civil and religious marriages are in place in the country and are effectively implemented through extensive educational campaigns explaining illegality of child marriage and the harm it causes. Following the introduction of the new clause into the Criminal Code of Kyrgyzstan banning religious rites for child marriage consecration, for example, Islamic religious authorities issued an official order prescribing official registrations of all nikah.

“When a girl is forced to marry as a child, she faces immediate and lifelong consequences. Her odds of finishing school decrease while her odds of being abused by her husband and suffering complications during pregnancy increase,” said Lucio Valerio Sarandrea, UNICEF’s Child Protection Chief in Kyrgyzstan. “We are committed to eradicate this practice and support the state’s efforts in this regard.”

To end the practice by 2030 – the target set out in the Sustainable Development Goals – progress must be significantly accelerated. Without further acceleration, more than 150 million additional girls will marry before their 18th birthday by 2030. Worldwide, an estimated 650 million women alive today were married as children.

“Each and every child marriage prevented in Kyrgyzstan gives another girl the chance to fulfill her potential,” said Sarandrea. “But we need to collectively redouble efforts to prevent thousands of girls from having their childhoods stolen through this devastating practice.”


Notes to editors

Estimates of the global and regional prevalence of child marriage are calculated on the basis of national estimates in the UNICEF global databases, comprised of nationally representative data from over 100 countries, including Kyrgyzstan. National data on child marriage are primarily drawn from household surveys, including the UNICEF-supported Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) and the USAID-supported Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS). Demographic data are drawn from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. 

For more information, please contact:
Helen Wylie, UNICEF New York, Tel: +1 917 244 2215, hwylie@unicef.org
Aiperi Alymbekova, UNICEF Bishkek, Tel: + 996 777 91 91 43, aalymbekova@unicef.org

Media contacts

Veronika Vashchenko
Chief of Communication
UNICEF Kyrgyzstan
Tel: +996 777 919 142


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