Last update: Jan 2009
UNICEF documents and publications
This study utilizes household survey data from the Demographic and Health Surveys to assess child marriage levels by country and provide further analysis of how child marriage correlates with additional indicators. For this analysis, data are analysed for countries with surveys conducted during 1995–2003. The surveys cover women aged 15–49. The objective of this study is to present available empirical evidence obtained through household surveys in order to estimate the prevalence of child marriage and to identify and understand the factors associated with child marriage and cohabitation. The report presents a global assessment of child marriage levels, differentials in child marriage rates according to socio-economic and demographic variables, characteristics of the union, and knowledge and access to sexual and reproductive health information and materials. Statistical associations between indicators can reveal potential linkages in programming to promote the delay of marriage and point to opportunities to integrate advocacy and behaviour change campaigns towards the prevention of child marriage, and a multivariate analysis allows for the illumination of the net effect of each variable. Anomalies to general trends are often highlighted in the text in order to direct programmers and researchers towards case examples that may require further study or circumstances that may provide models for eradication efforts.
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This Digest focuses on early marriage – the marriage of children and young people under the age of 18 – from a human rights perspective. Research into early marriage has tended to concentrate on its impact on reproductive health, school dropout and rising population figures, and there has been little examination of the practice as a human rights violation in itself. The Digest examines the scale of early marriage, its context, causes and impact on every aspect of the lives of those affected – particularly young girls – and on wider society. It outlines strategies to help those who have been married at an early age, and for the prevention of early marriage through education, advocacy and alliance-building. More specifically, it provides guidelines towards ending the practice of child marriage through changing attitudes within families and societies, expanding opportunities for education, offering appropriate support to families and children, and working to ensure that all children – girls and boys – are recognized as valuable members of society. The Digest concludes with a call for more rights-based research on an issue that has far-reaching consequences.