Every 3 Seconds 1 Girl Gets Married

In Hong Kong, we can always see girls going to schools happily. For them, marriage is a distant thing. Hong Kong people tend to marry late. The average ages of marriage for men and women are 30.9 and 27.7. Marriage is supposed to be one of the most important and happiest moments in life. However, there is another group of girls in the world who have already been wives and mothers. They are being robbed of their childhood and future and their lives are miserable.

Child marriage is a violation of children’s human rights. Despite being prohibited by international human rights law and many national laws, child marriage is still a widespread issue in the world.

What is Child Marriage

Child marriage refers to any marriage – whether under civil, religious or customary law, and with or without formal registration – where either one or both spouses are children under the age of 18.


  • Now, there are over 650 million child brides (girls married before 18) around the world.
  • About 12 million girls get married under the age of 18 every year – nearly 1 every 3 seconds.
  • One in five girls are married before 18.
  • Approximately 16 million girls aged 15 to 19 years give birth each year, and complications caused by pregnancy and childbirth are the main causes of death in girls aged 15 to 19.
  • Girls with no education are three times as likely to marry by 18 as those with a secondary or higher education.

Latifa was very sad when she was forced to marry her husband.

Top 10 Countries With the Highest Rates of Child Marriage

Country Rate of Child Marriage
Niger 76.3%
Central African Republic 61%
Chad 60.6%
Mali 53.7%
Mozambique 52.9%
Burkina Faso 51.6%
South Sudan 51.5%
Bangladesh 51.4%
Guinea 46.5%
Nigeria 43.4%

*Source: UNICEF global databases, 2021, based on Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) and other national surveys, 2014-2020


  • Poverty: Some families are so poor that they cannot provide basic needs for their children. Parents may arrange their daughters to get married in order to lessen the family’s burden and they believe that is the best choice for the family and for the girls. In some areas, the groom needs to pay a “bride price” to the bride’s family, so some parents view their daughters’ marriages as opportunities to make money.
  • Gender inequality: In many developing countries, girls are significantly less valued than boys. People believe girls do not need education or skills and their main responsibilities should be marriage, childbirth and taking care of the family.
  • Traditions and social norms: Cultural and religious traditions also play an important role. For example, in Indonesia, nearly 90% people believe in Islam. Islamic law has no age limit for marriage and girls can get married whenever they reach physical and mental maturity. In some villages, people believe that girls who have not get married before 15 are miserable “expired virgins” and may encounter bad luck.
  • Misconception: Many parents are worried that their daughters may suffer sexual abuse and other attacks, so they will arrange their daughter to get married as soon as possible and believe this can protect their daughter from violence and premarital pregnancy.
  • Lack of protection for children’s rights: Unsound laws are powerful drivers of child marriage. Some countries do not have an age limit for marriage, or there is a minimum age but girls can still get married after obtaining parents’ consent. Many countries also lack effective birth and marriage registration systems.

Around the globe, girls face the double discrimination of their gender and age.

Impacts on Girls

  • Bear the burden of taking care of families
  • Cannot go to school
  • Have no chance to learn working skills and stuck in poverty
  • Face the danger of pregnancy and childbirth at an early age
  • More likely to experience violence, abuse and forced sexual relations

18 years old Senzeni with her three-week-old baby Hannah.

 Fight Against Child Marriage

International studies have shown that the most effective ways to fight against child marriage include:

  • Keep girls in school and provide them quality education
  • Promote messages against child marriage in communities
  • Solve the poverty problem
  • Encourage governments to  formulate relevant laws, policies and protection systems
  • Help girls access to health services and contraception information

Plan International’s work covers all aspects of the above to help more girls get rid of child marriage.

You Can Help

It is a blessing to live in Hong Kong! Shall we show care and love to girls in developing countries? You can help to change their future! You can:

  • Learn more about the child marriage issue and discuss the issue with your family and friends. You can also organise or support some anti-child marriage activities
  • Participate in Plan International Hong Kong’s “Because I am a Girl” campaign, such as the “Donate a Pencil” event to support girls’ education
  • Sponsor a girl to help her improve her living and receive education.

Sponsor Now!