Which Countries Allow Child Marriages?

Globally, the rules for marriage age of men and women vary based on the country or region. On an average, the permissible age of marriage for men and women is 18 years. Looking at the extreme ends, there are countries with legal marriage age of 16+ and 19+. At the lower end, there are countries that do not have minimum age requirement for marriage. In effect, child marriages are legal in such countries. The only thing is that several of these countries may require parental or guardian consent for the child marriage. For better understanding, here’s a look at countries that allow child marriages.

Mali – Laws related to marriage age are not very strict in Mali. There’s also the lack of a proper system and willingness to enforce such laws. Around 55% of marriages in Mali involved under 18 individuals. Around 15% are those that have children below 15 years of age.

Guinea – This is among the countries with high rate of child marriages. Around 63% of marriages involved people under 18 years of age. Marriages with children under 15 years of age comprise around 20%.

Bangladesh – As per law, the legal marriage age is 18 for women and 21 for men in Bangladesh. However, the law also provides for special cases wherein men and women can marry below the legal marriage age. Due to this loophole, child marriages continue in Bangladesh. Around 66% marriages in Bangladesh involve people below 18 years. Around 32% marriages are below 15 years.

Chad – While earlier rules allowed marriage at 16 years of age, it was revised to 18 years in 2016. But the rules are not being strictly followed in society. As per estimates, 68% marriages in Chad are under 18. Around 29% involve children below 15 years of age.

Niger – A landlocked country in West Africa, Niger is listed among the countries with highest number of child marriages. The legal marriage age for boys and girls is 18 years and 15 years, respectively. However, the rules are often not followed. Estimates indicate that around 3/4th of marriages in Niger involve people less than 18 years of age. More than 2/3rd marriages have children under 15 years of age.

Child marriage is often criticized, as it is said to have several negative consequences. For example, women may have to quit their education in case of child marriage. They are likely to become dependent and may have to face discrimination, abuse, domestic violence, etc. Early marriage often means early pregnancy, which increases the risk of fatalities during pregnancy and childbirth. Early marriage also feeds the intergenerational cycle of poverty. More children are born through child marriages, which significantly increases the household’s economic burden. Due to these reasons, child marriages need to be avoided.

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