Factsheet: 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. Policy dialogue and research have continued to focus mainly on the concerns of unmarried young people. However, child marriage affects millions of girls in the developing world. A global consensus exists that early marriage is a human rights and health concern that needs to be addressed urgently. In countries in South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East, policymakers recommend enforcing existing laws about age at marriage and implementing programs to delay marriage. Gaining the commitment of law enforcement agencies in countries with a high prevalence of early marriage is important (IIPS and Population Council, 2008)

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