22 Feb 2018

Child marriages can happen in Europe

Every year, 15 million girls worldwide are forced to marry before they are 18 years old. The issue is encroaching on Italian society, mostly due to migration flows.

Ingrid Colanicchia
Ingrid Colanicchia MicroMega, Italy
Source: MicroMega
Child marriages can happen in Europe - NewsMavens
Child bride. Twitter.

Why this story matters:

In Italy, child marriages are most often inflicted on second-generation immigrants. Children, usually women, are taken to their parents's country of origin so that the ceremony can be carried out. 

However, child marriages in Europe are not limited to countries with significant migrant populations. A recent study reported staggering numbers of child brides in Roma settlements, up to 77% of all marriages.

The issue is often trivialized by invoking cultural differences, but there are significant and well-documented consequences to child marriages: education rates fall and maternal deaths rise dramatically.

However, the most harmful repercussions are long-term. A child bride is less employable, more vulnerable to poverty and marginalization, and she drags her children with her in a vicious circle of exclusion and poverty.

family, gender, women's issues, migration

Details from the story:

  • According to UNICEF data, around 700 million underage girls are married. Over a third of them -- about 250 million -- were married before the age of 15.
  • Getting married at an early age involves a number of consequences for health and development. Underage marriage is almost systematically followed by underage pregnancies, which endanger both mother and child.
  • Premature pregnancies cause 70,000 deaths among girls aged 15 to 19 each year, and make up a significant proportion of maternal mortality overall. In turn, a child born of a minor mother has 60% more chance of dying in neonatal age than a child born of a woman over the age of 19.
  • Early marriages are most commonly recorded in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa (46%), but the problem also concerns Italy and other parts of Europe.
  • On October 4, 2017 the European Parliament passed a resolution to end child marriages.
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