Education not early marriage, says report

Girls with no or little education are more likely to become child brides: study

Girls with no or little education are up to six times more likely to become child brides than girls who finish secondary school in countries where child marriage is rife, according to a new study.

Girls with little schooling are far more likely to marry young – before the age of 18 – reducing their prospects of escaping poverty and potentially harming the health of their children, according to a major new World Bank report on women and girls worldwide.

Some 65 per cent of women with primary education or less globally are married as children, compared with 5 per cent of women who finish secondary school, according to the study. Girls in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are particularly likely to suffer; in Bangladesh, girls who marry young are 5 per cent less likely to be literate and 8 per cent less likely to have any secondary education than those who marry later.

“Educated mothers have greater autonomy in making decisions and more power to act for their children’s benefit," said Jeni Klugman, World Bank group director for gender and development. “The ability to make decisions and act on them is a key reason why children of better educated women are less likely to be stunted.”

Each additional year a girl waits to get married increases the likelihood of literacy by 5.6 per cent, according to a World Bank study on child marriage and education.

Across the 111 countries studied, child marriage rates ranged from 2 per cent in Algeria and Libya to a peak of 75 per cent in Bangladesh. With its large population, India recorded the highest number of child brides, accounting for one-third of all child marriages globally.

Girls who marry later are more likely to finish their education and have fewer children, said the report, which can increase women’s life expectancy as well as have benefits for children’s health and education.

In developing countries, young women who give birth before the age of 18 do so at a higher risk of death: nearly 70,000 girls in developing countries aged 15-19 die each year due to pregnancy-related causes. According to the report, the economic costs of early motherhood can be high, reaching as much as 30 per cent of GDP in lost income in Uganda.

Child marriage in developing countries remains pervasive: one-third of girls are married before the age of 18 and one in nine is married before their fifteenth birthday. On current trends, more than 142 million girls will be married before the age of 18 in the next decade, said the study.