Almost 15% fewer girls get married before they turn 18 now than they did a decade ago, “in large part” due to progress in India, the United Nations Children’s Fund said on Tuesday. Marriages of girls in India have come down by nearly half in the past 10 years, Unicef said.
Globally, one in five girls is married before she turns 18, as compared with one in four a decade ago, Unicef said. However, the number is still around 12 million girls a year, the data showed.
The UN agency also said that around 25 million marriages were prevented in the last decade. However, it warned that progress must be “significantly accelerated” to meet the targets under the Sustainable Development Goals. “Without further acceleration, more than 150 million additional girls will marry before their 18th birthday by 2030,” the organisation said.
“India constitutes more than 20% of the world’s adolescent population and accounts for the highest number of child marriages in South Asia given its size and population,” Javier Aguilar, Unicef’s chief of child protection, told Thomson Reuters Foundation. “In the current trend, 27% of girls, or nearly 1.5 million girls, get married before they turn 18 in India. This is a sharp decline from 47% a decade ago.”
The highest decline in marriages of underage girls in the last decade was reported in South Asia. The risk of a girl marrying before she turned 18 fell from nearly 50% to 30% in the region.
Unicef’s numbers were based on the comparison of data from its 2006 and 2016 health surveys, in which it asked women aged between 20 and 24 whether they had married before they turned 18.