Early Marriage and Adolescent Girls


Programs addressing adolescent reproductive health and HIV prevention have focused primarily on unmarried youth. However, the majority of recent unprotected sexual activity among adoles- cent girls in most developing countries occurs within marriage. Girls married before age 18 have low educational attainment, earning power, and social mobility. In some settings, married girls have been shown to have higher rates of HIV infection than their sexually active unmarried peers.1 All regions have countries with areas where early marriage is prevalent, but it is most pronounced in South Asia and West Africa. In Bangladesh, India, Mali, and Nepal, at least half of all women currently ages 20 to 24 were married by age 18, according to Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data. In certain regions of Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, and Nigeria, at least 40 percent of these women were married before age 15. If current patterns continue during the next decade, more than 100 million girls will be married before the age of 18 (considered the legal minimum age of marriage in most countries), according to a Population Council analysis of United Nations country data. Early marriage among boys is much less common.


Youth Lens: Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDS



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