In Brief

Twenty thousand underage girls ‘marry illegally every day’

World Bank says one in three girls in developing world is victim of underage marriage

More than 20,000 underage girls marry illegally around the world each day, according to analysis by the World Bank and Save the Children.

That means 7.5 million girls each year are married below the minimum age permitted in their respective countries. One in every three girls in the developing world marry before they are 18.

 Despite progress made in recent years by countries such as Costa Rica, Mexico and Zimbabwe to raise the legal age of marriage or eliminate legal exemptions, two-thirds of underage marriages are taking place in countries where they are legally banned, “suggesting laws are not enforced”, says The Guardian.

Meanwhile, in other countries, the minimum age for marriage is lower under religious or customary law than national law, which undermines legal protection.

Kirsty McNeill of Save the Children described the impact of illegal marriage on underage girls. She said: “When a girl gets married too young, her role as a wife and a mother takes over. She is more likely to leave school, she may become pregnant and suffer abuse.”

This in turn can increase pressure on social services often in countries where basic amenities are already at breaking point, McNeill said.

The study, released to mark international Day of the Girl, comes ahead of an African-led conference in Senegal later this month aimed at ending child marriage on the continent. In west Africa alone, it is estimated that 1.7 million girls are married below the minimum legal age every year.

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