Child marriage, known as ‘Bal Vivaha’, is believed to have begun during the medieval ages of India
New Delhi: Child marriage, known as ‘Bal Vivaha’, is believed to have begun during the medieval ages of India. Later child marriage became a widespread cultural practice with various reasons to justify it, and many marriages were performed while the girl was still an infant.
After independence, the feudalistic character of the Indian society coupled with caste system gave a major boost to incidences of child marriage, particularly in the rural areas.
“Castes, which are based on birth and heredity, do not allow two people to marry if they are from different castes. This system was threatened by young people’s emotions and desires to marry outside their caste, so out of necessity child marriage was created to ensure the caste system continued. Also parents of a child entering into a child marriage are often poor and use marriage as a way to make their daughter’s future better, especially in areas with little economic opportunities.
“During times of war, parents will often marry off their young child to protect her from the conflicts raging around her. Some families still use child marriage to build alliances, as they did during the medieval ages,” Nirmal Kaur, Delhi-based child rights activist, told Gulf News.
“Statistically, a girl in a child marriage has less of a chance to go to school, and parents think education will undermine her ability to be a traditional wife and mother. Virginity is an important part of Indian culture, and parents want to ensure their daughters do not have pre-marital sex, and child marriage is an easy way to fix this,” Kaur said.
Because of lack of protection, child brides are often exposed to serious health risks, early pregnancy, and various sexually transmitted diseases especially HIV/Aids. There are many reasons why parents’ consent to child marriage such as economic necessity, male protection for their daughters, child bearing, or oppressive traditional values and norms.
Globally, more than one third of the women between the ages 20-24 were married before they reached the age of 18. Approximately 14 million adolescent girls between the ages 15-19 give birth each year. Girls in this age group are twice more likely to die during child birth than women in their twenties.
Child marriage in India has grave implications for population control as adolescent brides are likely to have high fertility and a number of unwanted pregnancies. States where child marriage is most prevalent is also where there is the highest population. Child marriage is low among women who have had access to higher education and secondary education. Marriages in India are often unregistered, and are socially binding if not legally, which makes it hard to survey.
According to ‘State of the World’s Children Report’ released by Unicef, premature pregnancy and motherhood are an inevitable consequence of child marriage. Girls under 15 are five times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than women in their twenties.
Unicef defines child marriage as marriage before 18 years of age and considers this practise as a violation of human rights. The harmful consequences of child marriage are segregation from family and friends, limiting the child’s interactions with the community and peers, lack of opportunities for education. Girl children often face situations of bonded labour, enslavement, commercial sexual exploitation and violence as a result of child marriage.
For the 2005 American film documentary, see Child Marriage (film).
Child marriage is a formal marriage or informal union entered into by an individual before reaching a certain age, specified by several global organizations such as UNICEF as minors under the age of 18. The legally prescribed marriageable age in some jurisdictions is below 18 years, especially in the case of girls; and even when the age is set at 18 years, many jurisdictions permit earlier marriage with parental consent or in special circumstances, such as teenage pregnancy. In certain countries, even when the legal marriage age is 18, cultural traditions take priority over legislative law. Child marriage violates the rights of children; it affects both boys and girls, but it is more common among girls. Child marriage has widespread and long term consequences for child brides and grooms. According to several UN agencies, comprehensive sexuality education can prevent such a phenomenon.
Child marriage is related to child betrothal, and it includes civil cohabitation and court approved early marriages after teenage pregnancy. In many cases, only one marriage-partner is a child, usually the female. Causes of child marriages include poverty, bride price, dowry, cultural traditions, laws that allow child marriages, religious and social pressures, regional customs, fear of remaining unmarried, illiteracy, and perceived inability of women to work for money.
Child marriages were common throughout history for a variety of reasons including poverty, insecurity, as well as for political and financial reasons. Today, child marriage is still fairly widespread, particularly in developing countries, such as parts of Africa,South Asia,Southeast Asia,West Asia,Latin America, and Oceania. However, even in developed countries such as the United States legal exceptions mean that 25 US states have no minimum age requirement. The incidence of child marriage has been falling in most parts of the world. The countries with the highest observed rates of child marriages below the age of 18 are Niger, Chad, Mali, Bangladesh, Guinea and the Central African Republic, with a rate above 60%. Niger, Chad, Bangladesh, Mali and Ethiopia were the countries with child marriage rates greater than 20% below the age of 15, according to 2003–2009 surveys.
Historically, child marriage was common around the world, the average life expectancy did not exceed 50 years old, so child marriage was considered an effective practice to increase population. The practice began to be questioned in the 20th century, with the age of individuals' first marriage increasing in many countries and most countries increasing the minimum marriage age.
In ancient and medieval societies it was common for girls to be betrothed at or even before puberty. As Friedman claims, "arranging and contracting the marriage of a young girl were the undisputed prerogatives of her father in ancient Israel." Most girls were married before the age of 15, often at the start of their puberty. In the Middle Ages the age at marriage seems to have been around puberty throughout the Jewish world.
Ruth Lamdan writes: “The numerous references to child marriage in the 16th- century Responsa literature and other sources, shows that child marriage was so common, it was virtually the norm. In this context, it is important to remember that in halakha, the term ‘minor’ refers to a girl under twelve years and a day. A girl aged twelve and a half was already considered an adult in all respects.”
In Ancient Greece, early marriage and motherhood for girls was encouraged. Even boys were expected to marry in their teens. Early marriages and teenage motherhood was typical. In Ancient Rome, girls married above the age of 12 and boys above 14. In the Middle Ages, under English civil laws that were derived from Roman laws, marriages before the age of 16 were common. In Imperial China, child marriage was the norm.
Most religions, over history, influenced the marriageable age. For example, Christian ecclesiastical law forbade marriage of a girl before the age of puberty. Hindu vedic scriptures mandated the age of a girl's marriage to be adulthood which they defined as three years after the onset of puberty. Jewish scholars and rabbis strongly discouraged marriages before the onset of puberty, but at the same time, in exceptional cases, girls ages 3 through 12 (the legal age of consent according to halakha) might be given in marriage by her father.
Some apocryphal accounts[which?][according to whom?] state that at the time of her betrothal to Joseph, Mary, the mother of Jesus, was 12–14 years old, but such accounts are unreliable.[third-party source needed]
Historically within the Catholic Church, prior to the 1917 Code of Canon Law, the minimum age for a dissoluble betrothal (sponsalia de futuro) was 7 years in the contractees. The minimum age for a valid marriage was puberty, or nominally 14 for males and 12 for females. The 1917 Code of Canon Law raised the minimum age for a valid marriage at 16 for males and 14 for females. The 1983 Code of Canon Law maintained the minimum age for a valid marriage at 16 for males and 14 for females.(c. 1083 §1)[a]
Some Islamic marriage practices have permitted marriage of girls below the age of 10, because Shariat law is based in part on the life and practices of Muhammad, the Prophet, as described in part in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. Muhammad married Aisha, his third wife, when she was about age six, and consummated the marriage when she was about age nine. Some mainstream Islamic scholars have suggested that it is not the chronological age that matters; marriageable age under Muslim religious law is the age when the guardians of the girl feel she has reached sexual maturity. Such determination of sexual maturity is a matter of subjective judgment, and there is a strong belief among most Muslims and scholars, based on Sharia, that marrying a girl less than 13 years old is an acceptable practice for Muslims.
Main article: List of child bridegrooms
Boys are sometimes married as children, although according to UNICEF, "girls are disproportionately the most affected", child marriage is five times more common among girls than boys. Research on the effects of child marriage on underage boys is small. As of September 2014[update], 156 million living men were married as underage boys.
Main article: List of child brides
Child marriage has lasting consequences on girls, from their health, education and social development perspectives. These consequences last well beyond adolescence. One of the most common causes of death for girls aged 15 to 19 in developing countries was pregnancy and childbirth. In Niger, which is estimated as having the highest rate of child marriage in the world, about 3 in 4 girls marry before their 18th birthday.
Causes of child marriage
According to UNFPA, factors that promote and reinforce child marriage include poverty and economic survival strategies; gender inequality; sealing land or property deals or settling disputes; control over sexuality and protecting family honour; tradition and culture; and insecurity, particularly during war, famine or epidemics. Other factors include family ties in which marriage is a means of consolidating powerful relations between families.
Dowry and brideprice
Providing a girl with a dowry at her marriage is an ancient practice which continues in some parts of the world. This requires parents to bestow property on the marriage of a daughter, which is often an economic challenge for many families. The difficulty to save and preserve wealth for dowry was common, particularly in times of economic hardship, or persecution, or unpredictable seizure of property and savings. These difficulties pressed families to betroth their girls, irrespective of her age, as soon as they had the resources to pay the dowry. Thus, Goitein notes that European Jews would marry their girls early, once they had collected the expected amount of dowry.
A bride price is the amount paid by the groom to the parents of a bride for them to consent to him marrying their daughter. In some countries, the younger the bride, the higher the price she may fetch. This practice creates an economic incentive where girls are sought and married early by her family to the highest bidder. Child marriages of girls is a way out of desperate economic conditions, or simply a source of income to the parents. Bride price is another cause of child marriage and child trafficking.
Persecution, forced migration, and slavery
Social upheavals such as wars, major military campaigns, forced religious conversion, taking natives as prisoners of war and converting them into slaves, arrest and forced migrations of people often made a suitable groom a rare commodity. Bride's families would seek out any available bachelors and marry them to their daughters, before events beyond their control moved the boy away. Persecution and displacement of Roma and Jewish people in Europe, colonial campaigns to get slaves from various ethnic groups in West Africa across the Atlantic for plantations, Islamic campaigns to get Hindu slaves from India across Afghanistan's Hindu Kush as property and for work, were some of the historical events that increased the practice of child marriage before the 19th century.
Among Sephardi Jewish communities, child marriages became frequent from the 10th to 13th centuries, especially in Muslim Spain. This practice intensified after the Jewish community was expelled from Spain, and resettled in the Ottoman Empire. Child marriages among the Eastern Sephardic Jews continued through the 18th century in Islamic majority regions.
Fear, poverty, social pressures and sense of protection
A sense of social insecurity has been a cause of child marriages across the world. For example, in Nepal, parents fear likely social stigma if adult daughters (past 18 years) stay at home. Other fear of crime such as rape, which not only would be traumatic but may lead to less acceptance of the girl if she becomes victim of a crime. For example, girls may not be seen as eligible for marriage if they are not virgins. In other cultures, the fear is that an unmarried girl may engage in illicit relationships, or elope causing a permanent social blemish to her siblings, or that the impoverished family may be unable to find bachelors for grown up girls in their economic social group. Such fears and social pressures have been proposed as causes that lead to child marriages.
Extreme poverty may make daughters an economic burden on the family, which may be relieved by their early marriage, to the benefit of the family as well as the girl herself. Poor parents may have few alternatives they can afford for the girls in the family; they often view marriage as a means to ensure their daughter's financial security and to reduce the economic burden of a growing adult on the family. Child marriage can also be seen as means of ensuring a girl's economic security, particularly if she lacks family members to provide for her. In reviews of Jewish community history, scholars claim poverty, shortage of grooms, uncertain social and economic conditions were a cause for frequent child marriages.
An additional factor causing child marriage is the parental belief that early marriage offers protection. Parents feel that marriage provides their daughter with a sense of protection from sexual promiscuity and safe from sexually transmitted infections. However, in reality, young girls tend to marry older men, placing them at an increased risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection.
Protection through marriage may play a specific role in conflict settings. Families may have their young daughters marry members of an armed group or military in hopes that she will be better protected. Girls may also be taken by armed groups and forced into marriages.
Religion and civil law
Although the general marriageable age is 18 in the majority of countries, most jurisdictions allow for exceptions for underage youth with parental and/or judicial consent. Such laws are neither limited to developing countries, nor to state religion. In some countries a religious marriage by itself has legal validity, while in others it does not, as civil marriage is obligatory. For Catholics incorporated into the Latin Church, the 1983 Code of Canon Law sets the minimum age for a valid marriage at 16 for males and 14 for females.(c. 1083 §1)[a] In 2015, Spain raised its minimum marriageable age to 16 from the previous 14. In Mexico, marriage under 18 is allowed with parental consent, from age 14 for girls and age 16 for boys. In Ukraine, in 2012, the Family Code was amended to equalize the marriageable age for girls and boys to 18, with courts being allowed to grant permission to marry from age 16 years if it is established that the marriage is in the best interest of the youth.
Many states in the US permit child marriages, with court's permission. Since 2015, the minimum marriageable age throughout Canada is 16. In Canada the age of majority is set by province/territory at 18 or 19, so minors under this age have additional restrictions (i.e. parental and court consent). Under the Criminal Code, Art. 293.2 Marriage under age of 16 years reads: "Everyone who celebrates, aids or participates in a marriage rite or ceremony knowing that one of the persons being married is under the age of 16 years is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years." The Civil Marriage Act also states: "2.2 No person who is under the age of 16 years may contract marriage." In the UK, marriage is allowed for 16–17 years old with parental consent in England and Wales as well as in Northern Ireland, and even without parental consent in Scotland. However, a marriage of a person under 16 is void under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. The United Nations Population Fund stated the following:
In 2010, 158 countries reported that 18 years was the minimum legal age for marriage for women without parental consent or approval by a pertinent authority. However, in 146 countries, state or customary law allows girls younger than 18 to marry with the consent of parents or other authorities; in 52 countries, girls under age 15 can marry with parental consent. In contrast, 18 is the legal age for marriage without consent among males in 180 countries. Additionally, in 105 countries, boys can marry with the consent of a parent or a pertinent authority, and in 23 countries, boys under age 15 can marry with parental consent.
Lower legally allowed marriage age does not necessarily cause high rates of child marriages. However, there is a correlation between restrictions placed by laws and the average age of first marriage. In the United States, per 1960 Census data, 3.5% of girls married before the age of 16, while an additional 11.9% married between 16 and 18. States with lower marriage age limits saw higher percentages of child marriages. This correlation between higher age of marriage in civil law and observed frequency of child marriages breaks down in countries with Islam as the state religion. In Islamic nations, many countries do not allow child marriage of girls under their civil code of laws. But, the state recognized Sharia religious laws and courts in all these nations have the power to override the civil code, and often do. UNICEF reports that the top five nations in the world with highest observed child marriage rates – Niger (75%), Chad (72%), Mali (71%), Bangladesh (64%), Guinea (63%) – are Islamic majority countries.
Politics and financial relationships
Child marriages may depend upon socio-economic status. The aristocracy in some cultures, as in the European feudal era tended to use child marriage as a method to secure political ties. Families were able to cement political and/or financial ties by having their children marry. The betrothal is considered a binding contract upon the families and the children. The breaking of a betrothal can have serious consequences both for the families and for the betrothed individuals themselves.
Child marriage by region
A UNFPA report stated that "For the period 2000–2011, just over one third (an estimated 34 per cent) of women aged 20 to 24 years in developing regions were married or in union before their eighteenth birthday. In 2010 this was equivalent to almost 67 million women. About 12 per cent of them were married or in union before age 15." The prevalence of child marriage varies substantially among countries. Around the world, girls from rural areas are twice as likely to marry as children as those from urban areas.
See also: Child marriage in Morocco and Child marriage in Ethiopia
According to UNICEF, Africa has the highest incidence rates of child marriage, with over 70% of girls marrying under the age of eighteen in three nations. Girls in West and Central Africa have the highest risk of marrying in childhood. Niger has one of the highest rates of early marriage in sub-Saharan Africa. Among Nigerian women between the ages of twenty and twenty-four, 76% reported marrying before the age of eighteen and 28% reported marrying before the age of fifteen. This UNICEF report is based on data that is derived from a small sample survey between 1995 and 2004, and the current rate is unknown given lack of infrastructure and in some cases, regional violence.
African countries have enacted marriageable age laws to limit marriage to a minimum age of 16 to 18, depending on jurisdiction. In Ethiopia, Chad and Niger, the legal marriage age is 15, but local customs and religious courts have the power to allow marriages below 12 years of age. Child marriages of girls in West Africa and Northeast Africa are widespread. Additionally, poverty, religion, tradition, and conflict make the rate of child marriage in Sub-Saharan Africa very high in some regions.
In many tribal systems a man pays a bride price to the girl's family in order to marry her (comparable to the customs of dowry and dower). In many parts of Africa, this payment, in cash, cattle, or other valuables, decreases as a girl gets older. Even before a girl reaches puberty, it is common for a married girl to leave her parents to be with her husband. Many marriages are related to poverty, with parents needing the bride price of a daughter to feed, clothe, educate, and house the rest of the family. In Mali, the female:male ratio of marriage before age 18 is 72:1; in Kenya, 21:1.
The various reports indicate that in many Sub-Saharan countries, there is a high incidence of marriage among girls younger than 15. Many governments have tended to overlook the particular problems resulting from child marriage, including obstetric fistulae, premature births, stillbirth, sexually transmitted diseases (including cervical cancer), and malaria.
In parts of Ethiopia and Nigeria many girls are married before the age of 15, some as young as 7. In parts of Mali 39% of girls are married before the age of 15. In Niger and Chad, over 70% of girls are married before the age of 18.
As of 2006, 15–20% of school dropouts in Nigeria were the result of child marriage. In 2013, Nigeria attempted to change Section 29, subsection 4 of its laws and thereby prohibit child marriages. Christianity and Islam are each practiced by roughly half of its population, and the country continues with personal laws from its British colonial era laws, where child marriages are forbidden for its Christians and allowed for its Muslims. Child marriage is a divisive topic in Nigeria and widely practiced. In northern states, predominantly Muslim, over 50% of the girls marry before the age of 15.
In 2016, during a feast ending the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the GambianPresidentYahya Jammeh announced that child and forced marriages were banned.
In 2015, Malawi passed a law banning child marriage, which raises the minimum age for marriage to 18. This major accomplishment came following years of effort by the Girls Empowerment Network campaign, which ultimately led to tribal and traditional leaders banning the cultural practice of child marriage.
In Morocco, child marriage is a common practice. Over 41,000 marriages every year involve child brides. Before 2003, child marriages did not require a court or state's approval. In 2003, Morocco passed the family law (Moudawana) that raised minimum age of marriage for girls from 14 to 18, with the exception that underage girls may marry with the permission of the government recognized official/court and girl's guardian. Over the 10 years preceding 2008, requests for child marriages have been predominantly approved by Morocco's Ministry for Social Development, and have increased (c. 29% of all marriages). Some child marriages in Morocco are a result of Article 475 of the Moroccan penal code, a law that allows rapists to avoid punishment if they marry their underage victims. Article 475 was amended in January 2014 after much campaigning, and rapists can legally no longer avoid sentencing by marrying their victim.
In South Africa the law provides for respecting the marriage practices of traditional marriages, whereby a person might be married as young as 12 for females and 14 for males. Early marriage is cited as "a barrier to continuing education for girls (and boys)". This includes absuma (arranged marriages set up between cousins at birth in local Islamic ethnic group), bride kidnapping and elopement decided on by the children.
In 2016, the Tanzanian High Court – in a case filed by the Msichana Initiative, a lobbying group that advocates for girls' right to education – ruled in favor of protecting girls from the harms of early marriage. It is now illegal for anyone younger than 18 to marry in Tanzania.
A 2015 Human Rights Watch report stated that in Zimbabwe, one-third of women aged between 20 and 49 years old had married before reaching the age of 18. In January 2016, two women who had been married as children brought a court case requesting a change in the legal age of marriage to the Constitutional Court, with the result that the court declared that 18 is to be the minimum age for a legal marriage for both men and women (previously the legal age had been 16 for women and 18 for men). The law took effect immediately, and was hailed by a number of human rights, women's rights, medical and legal groups as a landmark ruling for the country.
The UN states that although the number of child marriages has declined on a worldwide scale, the problem remains most severe in Africa, despite the fact that Ethiopia cut child marriage rates by a third.
Child marriage is common in Latin America and the Caribbean island nations. About 29% of girls are married before age 18. The child marriage incidence rates varies between the countries, with Dominican Republic, Honduras, Brazil, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Haiti and Ecuador reporting some of the highest rates in the Americas.Bolivia and Guyana have shown the sharpest decline in child marriage rates as of 2012. In Guatemala, early marriage is most common among indigenous Mayan communities. Brazil is ranked fourth in the world in terms of absolute numbers of girls married or co-habitating by age fifteen. Poverty and lack of laws mandating minimum age for marriage have been cited as reasons of child marriage in Latin America. In an effort to combat the widespread belief among poor, rural, and indigenous communities that child marriage is a route out of poverty, some NGOs are working with communities in Latin America to shift norms and create safe spaces for adolescent girls.
Since 2015, the minimum marriageable age throughout Canada is 16. In Canada the age of majority is set by province/territory at 18 or 19, so minors under this age have additional restrictions (i.e. parental and court consent). Under the Criminal Code, Art. 293.2 Marriage under age of 16 years reads: "Everyone who celebrates, aids or participates in a marriage rite or ceremony knowing that one of the persons being married is under the age of 16 years is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years." The Civil Marriage Act also states: "2.2 No person who is under the age of 16 years may contract marriage."
Main article: Child marriage in the United States
Child marriage, as defined by UNICEF, is observed in the United States. The UNICEF definition of child marriage includes couples who are formally married, or who live together as a sexually active couple in an informal union, with at least one member – usually the girl – being less than 18 years old. The latter practice is more common in the United States, and it is officially called cohabitation. According to a 2010 report by National Center for Health Statistics, an agency of the government of United States, 2.1% of all girls in the 15–17 age group were in a child marriage. In the age group of 15–19, 7.6% of all girls in the United States were formally married or in an informal union. The child marriage rates were higher for certain ethnic groups and states. In Hispanic groups, for example, 6.6% of all girls in the 15–17 age group were formally married or in an informal union, and 13% of the 15–19 age group were. Over 350,000 babies are born to teenage mothers every year in the United States, and over 50,000 of these are second babies to teen mothers.
Laws regarding child marriage vary in the different states of the United States. Generally, children 16 and over may marry with parental consent, with the age of 18 being the minimum in all but two states to marry without parental consent. However states have exceptions within their laws, and although those under 16 generally require a court order in addition to parental consent, when those exceptions are taken into account, 25 US states have no minimum age requirement. Those that do have set it as young as 13 or 14. Between 2000 and 2015 there were at least 207,468 child marriages in the United States of which over 1,000 marriage licences were for children under 15, some as young as ten years old.
Until 2008 the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints practiced child marriage through the concept of "spiritual marriage" as soon as girls were ready to bear children, as part of its polygamy practice, but laws have raised the age of legal marriage in response to criticism of the practice. In 2008 the Church changed its policy in the United States to no longer marry individuals younger than the local legal age. In 2007 church leader Warren Jeffs was convicted of being an accomplice to statutory rape of a minor due to arranging a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and a 19-year-old man. In March 2008 officials of the state of Texas believed that children at the Yearning For Zion Ranch were being married to adults and were being abused. The state of Texas removed all 468 children from the ranch and placed them into temporary state custody. After the Austin's 3rd Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Texas ruled that Texas acted improperly in removing them from the YFZ Ranch, the children were returned to their parents or relatives.
Musician Jerry Lee Lewis's third wife, Myra Gale Brown, was Lewis's first cousin once removed and was only 13 years old at the time.
More than half of all child marriages occur in the South Asian countries of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal. There was a decrease in the rates of child marriage across South Asia from 1991 to 2007, but the decrease was observed among young adolescent girls and not girls in their late teens. Some scholars believe this age-specific reduction was linked to girls increasingly attending school until about age 15 and then getting married.
A 2013 report claims 53% of all married women in Afghanistan were married before age 18, and 21% of all were married before age 15. Afghanistan's official minimum age of marriage for girls is 15 with her father's permission. In all 34 provinces of Afghanistan, the customary practice of ba'ad is another reason for child marriages; this custom involves village elders, jirga, settling disputes between families or unpaid debts or ruling punishment for a crime by forcing the so-called guilty family to give their 5- to 12-year-old girls as a wife. Sometimes a girl is forced into child marriage for a crime her uncle or distant relative is alleged to have committed.
Over half of Yemeni girls are married before 18, some by the age eight. Yemen government's Sharia Legislative Committee has blocked attempts to raise marriage age to either 15 or 18, on grounds that any law setting minimum age for girls is un-Islamic. Yemeni Muslim activists argue that some girls are ready for marriage at age 9. According to HRW, in 1999 the minimum marriage age 15 for women was abolished; the onset of puberty, interpreted by conservatives to be at age nine, was set as a requirement for consummation of marriage. In practice "Yemeni law allows girls of any age to wed, but it forbids sex with them until the indefinite time they're 'suitable for sexual intercourse'." As with Africa, the marriage incidence data for Yemen in HRW report is from surveys between 1990 and 2000. Current data is difficult to obtain, given regional violence.
In April 2008, Nujood Ali, a 10-year-old girl, successfully obtained a divorce after being raped under these conditions. Her case prompted calls to raise the legal age for marriage to 18. Later in 2008, the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood proposed to define the minimum age for marriage at 18 years. The law was passed in April 2009, with the age voted for as 17. But the law was dropped the following day following maneuvers by opposing parliamentarians. Negotiations to pass the legislation continue. Meanwhile, Yemenis inspired by Nujood's efforts continue to push for change, with Nujood involved in at least one rally. In September 2013, an 8-year-old girl died of internal bleeding and uterine rupture on her wedding night after marrying a 40-year-old man.
The widespread prevalence of child marriage in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been documented by human rights groups. Saudi clerics have justified the marriage of girls as young as 9, with sanction from the judiciary. There are no laws in place defining a minimum age of consent in Saudi Arabia, though drafts for possible laws have been created since 2011.
Research by the United Nations Population Fund indicates that 28.2% of marriages in Turkey – almost one in three – involve girls under 18.
Child marriage was also found to be prevalent among Syrian and Palestinian Syrian refugees in Lebanon, in addition to other forms of sexual and gender-based violence. Marriage was seen as a potential way to protect family honor and protect a girl from rape given how common rape was during the conflict. Incidents of child marriages increased in Syria and among Syrian refugees over the course of the conflict. The proportion of Syrian refugee girls living in Jordan who were married increased from 13% in 2011 to 32% in 2014. Journalists Magnus Wennman and Carina Bergfeldt documented the practice, and some of its results.
Hill tribes girls are often married young. For the Karen people it is possible that two couples can arrange their children's marriage before the children are born.
In Indonesia, there are reports of Muslim clerics taking multiple underage wives, some less than 12 years old. Indonesian prosecutors have attempted to stop this practice by demanding prison terms for such clerics; however, local courts have issued soft sentences.
In Indonesia the 1974 Law on Marriage stipulates that a woman must be at least 16 years old and a man must be at least 19 years old to marry. With the popular rise of social networking sites like Facebook underage marriage appears to be increasing in areas like Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta. Couples have reported becoming acquainted through Facebook and continuing their relationships until girls became pregnant. Among the Atjeh of Sumatra girls formerly married before puberty. The husbands, though usually older, were still unfit for sexual union. Among the islanders of Fiji, also, marriage took place before puberty.
Child marriage rates in Bangladesh are amongst the highest in the world. Every 2 out of 3 marriages involve child marriages. According to statistics from 2005, 49% of women then between 25 and 29 were married by the age of 15 in Bangladesh. According to a 2008 study, for each additional year a girl in rural Bangladesh is not married she will attend school an additional 0.22 years on average. The later girls were married, the more likely they were to utilize preventative health care. Married girls in the region were found to have less influence on family planning, higher rates of maternal mortality, and lower status in their husband's family than girls who married later.
Mia's Law was enacted in 2006 to protect child brides from abuse following the torture and murder of Mia Armador, an 11-year-old who was killed by her abusive 48-year-old husband. This law requires all marriages under 13 to require special government permission.
Main article: Child marriage in India
According to UNICEF's "State of the World's Children-2009" report, 47% of India's women aged 20–24 were married before the legal age of 18, with 56% marrying before age 18 in rural areas. The report also showed that 40% of the world's child marriages occur in India. As with Africa, this UNICEF report is based on data that is derived from a small sample survey in 1999. The latest available UNICEF report for India uses 2004–2005 household survey data, on a small sample, and other scholars report lower incidence rates for India. According to Raj et al., the 2005 small sample household survey data suggests 22% of girls ever married aged 16–18, 20% of girls in India were married between 13–16, and 2.6% were married before age 13. According to 2011 nationwide census of India, the average age of marriage for women in India is 21. The child marriage rates in India, according to a 2009 representative survey, dropped to 7%. In its 2001 demographic report, the Census of India stated zero married girls below age 10, 1.4 million married girls out of 59.2 million girls in the age 10–14, and 11.3 million married girls out of 46.3 million girls in the age 15–19 (which includes 18–19 age group). For 2011, the Census of India reports child marriage rates dropping further to 3.7% of females aged less than 18 being married.
The Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 was passed during the tenure of British rule on Colonial India. It forbade the marriage of a male younger than 21 or a female younger than 18 for Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and most people of India. However, this law did not and currently does not apply to India's 165 million Muslim population, and only applies to India's Hindu, Christian, Jain, Sikh and other religious minorities. This link of law and religion was formalized by the British colonial rule with the Muslim personal laws codified in the Indian Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act of 1937. The age at which India's Muslim girls can legally marry, according to this Muslim Personal Law, is 9, and can be lower if her guardian (wali) decides she is sexually mature. Over the last 25 years, All India Muslim Personal Law Board and other Muslim civil organizations have actively opposed India-wide laws and enforcement action against child marriages; they have argued that Indian Muslim families have a religious right to marry a girl aged 15 or even 12. Several states of India claim specially high child marriage rates in their Muslim and tribal communities. India, with a population of over 1.2 billion, has the world's highest total number of child marriages. It is a significant social issue. As of 2016, the situation has been legally rectified by The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.
According to "National Plan of Action for Children 2005", published by Indian government's Department of Women and Child Development, set a goal to eliminate child marriage completely by 2010. In 2006, The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 was passed to prohibit solemnization of child marriages. This law states that men must be at least 21 years of age and women must but be at least 18 years of age to marry.
Some Muslim organizations planned to challenge the new law in the Supreme Court of India. In latter years, various high courts in India – including the Gujarat High Court, the Karnataka High Court and the Madras High Court – have ruled that the act prevails over any personal law (including Muslim personal law).
UNICEF reported that 28.8% of marriages in Nepal were child marriages as of 2011. A UNICEF discussion paper determined that 79.6 percent of Muslim girls in Nepal, 69.7 percent of girls living in hilly regions irrespective of religion, and 55.7 percent of girls living in other rural areas, are all married before the age of 15. Girls who were born into the highest wealth quintile marry about two years later than those from the other quintiles.
Main article: Child marriage in Pakistan
According to two 2013 reports, over 50% of all marriages in Pakistan involve girls less than 18 years old. Another UNICEF report claims 70 per cent of girls in Pakistan are married before the age of 16. As with India and Africa, the UNICEF data for Pakistan is from a small sample survey in the 1990s.
The exact number of child marriages in Pakistan below the age of 13 is unknown, but rising according to the United Nations. Andrew Bushell claims rate of marriage of 8- to 13-year-old girls exceeding 50% in northwest regions of Pakistan.
Another custom in Pakistan, called