More than 20,000 girls are married illegally each day, report says

While weddings are celebrated occasions, more than 20,000 girls across the world are illegally married each day,

While weddings are normally celebrated affairs, more than 20,000 girls across the world are illegally married each day, according to a new report.

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The World Band and global charity Save the Children released a study Wednesday, revealing that about 7.5 million girls become brides every year in countries that ban early marriage. Furthermore, nearly 100 million girls are not protected against child marriage under the laws of their country. 

Why is that?

Researchers believe it is difficult to enforce anti-child marriage laws due to deep-rooted religious and cultural traditions practiced that undermine legal protection.

They say child marriage is also used to prevent premarital sex and decrease living expenses for those in poverty. For example, in Africa, families can receive a “bride price” for a girl. 

“Laws banning the practice are an important first step. But millions of vulnerable girls will continue to be at risk unless child marriage is tackled head on,” Helle Thorning-Schmidt, head of Save the Children, said in a statement.

Scientists found that only 10 countries have altered their child marriage laws within the last few years, by either raising the legal age of marriage or eliminating legal exceptions. However, the authors believe “we need to change attitudes in communities so that we can end this harmful practice once and for all.”

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The study explained that girls who get married too early don’t have a chance to enjoy childhood, because wifely and motherly duties take over. Underage girls who wed may also be susceptible to abuse, analysts 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,” said Carolyn Miles, president & CEO of Save the Children.

Overall, South Asia accounts for 39.3 percent of all child marriages among the 112 countries included in the analysis. Sub-Saharan Africa falls into second place with 36.6 percent, and North America is in last place. It makes up 0.4 percent, the lowest among the countries studied. 

In the United States, 248,000 children were married between 2000 and 2010, Girls Not Brides, a society of organizations dedicated to ending child marriage, reported.

"We will not see a world,” Myles said, “where girls and boys have the same opportunities to succeed in life until we eradicate child marriage. 

Researchers released the report the day before International Day of the Girl, an annual holiday that highlights the challenges girls face while promoting girls’ empowerment. Take a look at the video below to learn more about the occasion. 

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