Early marriage and youth reproductive health


Early marriage or child marriage is defined as the marriage or union between two people in which one or both parties are younger than 18 years old (McIntyre, 2006; ICRW, 2005). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the right to “free and full” consent to a marriage, acknowledging that consent cannot be “free and full” when one of the individuals involved is not sufficiently mature to make an informed decision about a life partner (UNICEF, 2005). Hence, early marriage is considered a human rights issue. Nonetheless, in many developing countries, particularly in poorer rural areas, girls are often betrothed or committed to an arranged marriage without their knowledge or consent. Such an arrangement can occur as early as infancy. Parents see marriage as a cultural rite that provides protection for their daughter from sexual assault and offers the care of a male guardian (McIntyre, 2006). Many parents often feel that a young girl is an economic burden and therefore wish to marry off their young daughters before they become an economic liability (CGD, 2008; McIntyre, 2006).


Santhya, K.G., S.J. Jejeebhoy and S. Ghosh



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Population Council

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