Should the reduction in underage marriages accelerate in the coming decades, as UNICEF hopes, then population growth would lead to 150 million child brides by 2050 – 25 million more than today.
Africa will overtake South Asia as the region with the largest number of child brides, their number soaring to 310 million, more than 40 percent of the global total, in 2050, from 125 million, 25 percent of the total, today.
The two-day meeting in Lusaka is the African Union’s first conference on “Ending Child Marriage in Africa”, gathering representatives from member states as well as first ladies, United Nations officials and civil society groups.
My parents married me off when I was 13.
In South Sudan, girls from the wealthiest households are almost as likely to be married by age 18 as girls from the poorest households. UNICEF said that rapid population growth and limited social change across the African continent were key factors contributing to their prediction. Currently, 34% of young women were married as children, down from 44% in 1990.
Though the rates of child marriage are on the decline in most parts of the world, the number of girls married as children in Africa is expected to increase by 250 percent by the year 2050.
“The total number of child brides will rise from 125 million to 310 million by 2050… if we do not do something now”, UNICEF deputy executive director Fatoumata Ndiaye told AFP.
The report highlights slow rates of reduction, combined with rapid population growth, as major causes for the projected increase.
Africa’s population of girls is expected to balloon from the current 275 million to 465 million within 35 years.
It is also important to increase girls’ access to reproductive health services so that they have fewer, safer pregnancies and can break the cycle of poverty, UNICEF said.
Young girls married early face higher risks of health complications from childbirth, and their children are more likely to be stillborn or die shortly after birth than those born to older mothers. Girls who are married as children or teenagers are less likely to finish school, and more likely to experience violence or contract HIV.
Lake said as a result of the number of girls affected, lost childhood and shattered future, there was urgency of banning the practice once and for all. Each child bride is an individual tragedy. Moreover, UNICEF says that child brides often lack the skills needed for employment. “It is a harmful practice which severely affects the rights of a child”.
More than 700 million women alive today were married as children and one in three girls in the developing world were married before they turned 18, according to Girls Not Brides, a nonprofit working to end child marriage. In the Central African Republic and some other regions, the practice of boys being married off while underage was also rated disproportionately high.