The United Nations has called for an end to child marriages, saying the practice remains rife due to persistent poverty and gender inequality.
The body’s population agency UNFPA in a report particularly singled out developing countries as the places where the vice remains widespread, saying that one in every four girls is married before reaching age 18, while one in nine is married under age 15.
It warned that the practice threatens girls’ lives and health, and also limits their future prospects.
The agency said that young girls forced into marriage often become pregnant while still adolescents, increasing the risk of complications in pregnancy or childbirth. These complications are a leading cause of death among older adolescents in developing countries.
The agency also warned that if the commitments to end child marriage worldwide are not followed by action, an estimated 70 million girls will be married as children over the next five years. This is tens of thousands of girls every single day.
The UNFPA report gave a host of proposals on how the vice can be tackled, including enforcing existing laws, raising the legal age of marriage to 18 where it is not so yet and incorporating the education in school curricula.
Many international agreements outlaw child marriage, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women. The International Conference on Population and Development in 1994 also called on countries to eliminate child marriage.