Child brides in Africa could rise to 15 million by 2030

More than 5.5 million women who are today in their early 20s married before their 15th birthday

If present trends continue, by 2030, the number of child brides marrying each year in Africa will grow by more than 14% from 14.2 million in 2010 to 15.1 million, a ministerial conference at the African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, heard this week.

“Although the largest numbers of child brides are in South Asian countries, the countries with the highest rates of child marriage are in Africa. Of the 41 countries world-wide with prevalence rates of 30% or more, 30 are from Africa,”  AU Commissioner for Social Affairs, Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, said at the launch of the campaign Thursday.

To reverse the trend, the AU has launched a two-year continental campaign to end child marriage in Africa, in partnership with among others the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

The campaign was launched on Thursday during the 4th session of the AU conference of ministers of social development at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa.

Child marriage continues to affect millions of girls every year in Africa resulting in high rates in maternal and child mortality, obstetric fistula, premature births, sexually transmitted diseases (including cervical cancer), and HIV and domestic violence.

More than 5.5 million women who are today in their early 20s, married before they reached their 15th birthday. Every year, about 14 million adolescent and teenage girls are married, in most cases without their consent, according to the AU.

“Although boys are affected by this practice, child marriage disproportionately affects girls. In developing countries, one in three girls is married by age of 18 years; and one in nine by the age of 15,” said AU. 

Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister, Demeke Mekonnen, said that early and forced marriage is one of the most pervasive harmful traditional practices on the African continent. (Xinhua)

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