April 24th, 2014

Report shows 14 million girls forced into marriage every year

NewsBy Shuki Byrne
Forced marriage is a real problem
Forced marriage is a real problem

An estimated 14 million girls a year, 39,000 every day or 27 per minute, are married throughout the world according to a new report published today by the children’s NGO Plan Ireland.

While most of these marriages take place in the developing world, there is also some evidence that women living in Ireland have been subject to forced or child marriage in either their countries of origin or while living in Ireland itself.

In Ireland, while there is a lack of empirical data on forced marriage, some research has highlighted cases of women living in Ireland who experienced forced marriage in their country of origin.

These cases were described as typically taking place at the age range of 12-14 years.

In addition, NASC, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre, has identified at least two cases in a twelve month period of forced marriages of women in Ireland. They also fear that due to its clandestine nature, additional cases may exist.

In the UK, the government estimates that between 5,000 and 8,000 people are at risk of forced marriage each year. In response to the problem, the UK has created a dedicated Forced Marriage Unit. In 2012, the government, announced plans to fully criminalise forced marriage in the UK. 

 CEO of Plan Ireland, David Dalton said;

"Worldwide, one in three girls (34%) is married by the age of 18. Despite declines in prevalence in some countries, global figures have remained constant over the last ten years. In many societies, traditionally women and girls are subject to deep rooted norms and attitudes which assign them a lower status than men. This tends to perpetuate the practice of child and forced marriage."

In some countries such as Niger over 70% of women are married or in a union by the age of 18. The report outlines how girls who forced into marriage have a far greater risk of exposure to violence, poor sexual health, illiteracy and lack of education.

Child marriage is a public health issue as well as a human rights violation. Girls married early are more likely to experience violence, abuse and forced sexual relations. They are more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections and have reduced levels of re-productive health. 

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that marriage should take place between spouses of “full age” and with “free and full” consent of both parties. In Ireland, to be legally entitled to marry you must be over 18 years of age or have a Court Exemption Order if this is not the case.

Dalton also said, "With changing patterns of migration into Ireland in recent years, it is not hugely surprising that cases of forced and child marriage among people living here have been identified... Child marriage is a public health issue as well as a human rights violation. Girls married early are more likely to experience violence, abuse and forced sexual relations. They are more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections and have reduced levels of re-productive health."