An estimated 115 million boys and men around the world were married as children, UNICEF said on Friday in its first ever in-depth analysis of child grooms. Of these, one in five children, or 23 million, were married before the age of 15.
Using data from 82 countries, the study reveals that child marriage among boys is prevalent across a range of countries around the world, spanning sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, South Asia, and East Asia and the Pacific.
According to the data, the Central African Republic has the highest prevalence of child marriage among males (28%), followed by Nicaragua (19%) and Madagascar (13%).
“Marriage steals childhood,” said Executive Director of UNICEF Henrietta Fore. “Child grooms are forced to take on adult responsibilities for which they may not be ready. Early marriage brings early fatherhood, and with it added pressure to provide for a family, cutting short education and job opportunities.”
The new estimates bring the total number of child brides and child grooms to 765 million. Girls remain disproportionately affected, with 1 in 5 young women aged 20 to 24 years old married before their 18th birthday, compared to 1 in 30 young men.
Most at risk
While the prevalence, causes and impact of child marriage among girls have been extensively studied, little research exists on child marriage among boys.
However, children most at risk of child marriage come from the poorest households, living in rural areas, and have little to no education.
“As we mark the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we need to remember that marrying boys and girls off while they are still children runs counter to the rights enshrined in the Convention,” said Ms. Fore. “Through further research, investment and empowerment, we can end this violation.”