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UNICEF says child marriage rates are finally dropping

UNICEF says child marriage rates are finally dropping
Girls who have fought child marriage go to school using a transport facility provided in the village of Berhabad, India. [Photo: © UNICEF/UN061994/Vishwanathan]

Finally some good news in this gray world: Child marriage rates are dropping, at long last.

According to a new report from UNICEF, there are now 12 million underage girls married each year. That number is obviously too high, yet it actually shows progress, the organization reports. A decade ago, the global annual number was an embarrassing 37 million child brides. Thanks to education campaigns and global efforts, though, humanity is making strides. “Each and every child marriage prevented gives another girl the chance to fulfill her potential,” Anju Malhotra, UNICEF’s principal gender advisor, says in a press release. “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.”

South Asia shows the most promise; There, a girl’s risk of marrying before her 18th birthday has dropped by more than a third, from nearly 50% to 30%. New UNICEF data also point to advances in Africa. In Ethiopia, which was among the top five countries for child marriage in sub-Saharan Africa, the prevalence has dropped by a third in the last 10 years.

The results are promising, but there is still a lot of work to do to end the practice in time to meet UNICEF’s goal, and to ensure that girls and young women can decide when and if they marry. When a girl is forced to marry as a child, her odds of finishing school decrease, while her odds of being abused by her husband and suffering complications during pregnancy increase. Want to help? Sign this petition to remind Congress to continue investing in foreign aid that supports women and girls.

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