India leads global decline in child marriages: UN
NEW DELHI – Agence France-Presse
According to U.N. children’s agency UNICEF, 25 million child marriages have been prevented around the world in the last decade, with the sharpest drop in India and the rest of South Asia where girls as young as eight have reportedly been forced to wed.
The risk of a girl being forced to marry before the age of 18 in South Asia has decreased from nearly 50 percent to 30 percent, said a UNICEF statement.
The agency attributed the change to better education for girls, government initiatives and strong awareness programs.
Many parents marry off their children in the hope of improving their financial security.
The results can be devastating, with girls dropping out of school to cook and clean for their husbands and suffering health problems from giving birth at a young age.
In a landmark judgment last year, India’s top court said that sex with an underage wife constituted rape, in a ruling cheered by activists.
The agency estimates that 12 million girls are forced into marriage each year, meaning that without further efforts more than 150 million will fall victim to the practice by 2030.
“But given the world has pledged to end child marriage by 2030, we’re going to have to collectively redouble efforts to prevent millions of girls from having their childhoods stolen through this devastating practice.”