3. Child brides are more likely to contract HIV/AIDS
SDG3: Good Health
Adolescent girls are disproportionately affected by HIV.7 Girls who are married as adolescents to men who have had many previous sexual partners are even more likely to contract HIV due to a lack of sexual and reproductive health information, and a lack power to negotiate safe sex or refuse sex. Often they are subject to partner violence, which further increases their risk of contracting HIV.8 The tragedy of HIV/AIDS for girls comes full circle as AIDS is a leading cause of death amongst adults. Orphans, and girls from child-headed households are at higher risk of early marriage as they struggle to support themselves. In these desperate situations, when a girl cannot afford food or shelter, let alone school fees, entering into an early marriage can sometimes be seen as the only way to survive.
4. Child marriage is a major barrier to achieving gender equality
SDG5: Gender Equality
Girls who are married as children are more likely to experience domestic violence, and have a lower status in society, because too often child brides are denied their right to pursue education, employment or entrepreneurial opportunities.
With every child bride we lose a future teacher, doctor, scientist, entrepreneur or political leader. The cost to all of us is tremendous, and we pay the price in the form of inefficient accumulation of capital and slower economic growth, amounting to trillions of dollars for developing countries by 2030.9
5. Child marriage locks away women’s enormous potential to help solve global problems
SDG1: No Poverty SDG2: Zero Hunger SDG3: Good Health SDG4: Quality Education SDG13: Climate Action
The potential of so many girls to change the course of our planet’s future remains our world’s greatest untapped resource. For example, women in rural areas are often in charge of agricultural operations, and so they are best placed to implement sustainable agricultural, energy and environmental initiatives in their communities, which can help to address poverty and hunger, and in turn health and education, as well as increase resilience to climate change. A recent study suggests that a clear link has been established between girls’ education and the mitigation of climate change10, one reason being that educated women have smaller, healthier families, and in turn educate their children, leading to a virtuous cycle of development.
However, when girls are excluded from education and locked away in an early marriage, they are often unable to gain the knowledge or earn the respect and decision-making power that they need to lead change in their communities.