Child Marriage: Recognizing it as a Human Rights Crime

Child Marriage: Recognizing it as a Human Rights Crime


Child marriage is a widespread practice that continues to violate the basic human rights of girls worldwide. It refers to any formal or informal union where at least one party is under 18 years of age. This harmful tradition predominantly affects young girls, subjecting them to various forms of abuse, robbing them of their childhood, and hindering their personal development and well-being. Recognizing child marriage as a human rights crime is crucial in order to protect vulnerable children and empower them to lead fulfilling lives free from exploitation.

The Consequences of Child Marriage:

Child marriage not only violates human rights but also has severe negative consequences for the girls involved. These consequences can be categorized into physical, psychological, and social aspects.

Physically, child brides often experience complications in their reproductive health due to early pregnancy. These complications may include premature births, obstetric fistula, and high maternal mortality rates. Additionally, young girls are more susceptible to sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV/AIDS, due to their vulnerability and lack of awareness about safer sexual practices.

Psychologically, child brides face emotional trauma resulting from early marriage. They are often forced to leave their families, education, and homes, and are expected to take on adult responsibilities for which they are not prepared. This can lead to depression, anxiety, and a lack of self-esteem. Moreover, girls who are married at a young age are more likely to experience domestic violence and abuse from their spouses.

Socially, child marriages perpetuate a cycle of poverty and gender inequality. When girls are married off at a young age, they are deprived of educational opportunities, which limits their ability to gain skills and knowledge necessary for employment. This perpetuates economic dependence and keeps them trapped in a cycle of poverty. This inequality affects entire communities, hindering their social and economic development.

Recognizing Child Marriage as a Human Rights Crime:

Child marriage violates several international human rights conventions and treaties. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) all explicitly recognize child marriage as a violation of human rights.

Article 16(2) of CEDAW states that “the betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect.” Furthermore, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution in 2011 urging member states to address child, early, and forced marriage as a human rights issue.

By recognizing child marriage as a human rights crime, governments and international organizations can prioritize the protection and empowerment of girls. They can implement and enforce laws to raise the minimum age of marriage, provide access to quality education for girls, and support programs that raise awareness about the harmful consequences of child marriage.


1. Why does child marriage persist today?

Child marriage persists due to a combination of cultural, social, and economic factors. In many communities, it is considered a tradition and a way to enforce gender norms and preserve social and economic stability. Poverty, lack of education, and limited opportunities for women can also contribute to the prevalence of child marriage.

2. How does child marriage impact the development of communities?

Child marriage has a detrimental impact on community development. When girls are married off at a young age, they are less likely to be economically productive members of society. They are also more likely to have children at an early age, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and malnutrition. This hinders the overall social and economic development of communities.

3. How can we address child marriage?

Addressing child marriage requires a multi-faceted approach. Governments must enact and enforce laws that raise the minimum age of marriage and educate communities about the negative consequences of child marriage. Access to quality education and economic opportunities for girls is essential to empower them and break the cycle of child marriage. Additionally, community-based initiatives and partnerships with NGOs can provide support and resources to girls at risk of child marriage.

4. What is the importance of recognizing child marriage as a human rights crime?

Recognizing child marriage as a human rights crime is crucial to elevate the issue on the global agenda. It helps governments, international organizations, and grassroots movements to prioritize the protection of girls and allocate resources to combat child marriage. Recognizing child marriage as a human rights violation enables the implementation of effective strategies and interventions to eradicate this harmful practice and ensure the well-being and empowerment of girls worldwide.


Child marriage is a grave violation of human rights, causing immense harm to young girls and perpetuating cycles of poverty and inequality. By recognizing child marriage as a human rights crime, governments and international organizations can work together to address this issue, protect vulnerable children, and promote the empowerment and well-being of girls. Through education, awareness campaigns, and policy changes, we can create a world where every child is free to enjoy their childhood and fulfill their potential.

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Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18

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