U.N. asks nations to end marriages of young girls

The United Nations is warning the rate of girls under the age of 18 who are married off by their parents will rise dramatically if current trends are not reversed. Little progress in ending child marriage has been made during the past decade.

Although child marriages happen virtually everywhere, U.N. Population Fund head Babatunde Osotimehin says it happens most often in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, exposing millions of girls to grave consequences.

“It jeopardizes their right to education, including comprehensive sexuality education, health, survival and the development to their fullest. It excludes a girl from decisions, such as the timing of marriage and the choice of a spouse, and also timing of children and the spacing between those children,” said Osotimehin.

Despite efforts to end the practice, the United Nations warns that if current trends continue, the number of young girls married off before the age of 18 will more than double – to 142 million – during the coming decade.

The study’s authors urge governments on national and local levels to raise the marriage age to 18 and enforce it. They also say education is key to ending the practice.

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