Afghanistan among countries with the highest number of child brides, UNICEF reports

The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021 has led to a surge in child marriage, as families struggle to cope with the economic and social upheaval.

According to a recent report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), reported by the Independent newspaper, the number of child marriages in Afghanistan has increased by 25% since the Taliban took power.

The report found that the Taliban’s restrictions on girls’ education and employment have made it more difficult for families to support their daughters, and that many families are now resorting to marrying their daughters off at a young age in order to reduce their financial burden.

The report also found that child marriage is having a devastating impact on girls’ health, education, and well-being. Girls who are married as children are more likely to drop out of school, experience early pregnancy, and suffer from domestic violence and other forms of abuse. They are also more likely to live in poverty and experience food insecurity.

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According to UNICEF, with around 223 million, India is home to the largest number of child brides. And the South Asian region constituting 45 per cent of child brides in the world.

Noala Skinner, UNICEF’s director for South Asia, said that “The fact that South Asia has the highest child marriage burden in the world is nothing short of tragic,” adding that “Child marriage locks girls out of learning, puts their health and wellbeing at risk and compromises their future. Every girl who gets married as a child is one girl too many.”

In Afghanistan, the legal age of marriage for girls is 16. However, the ongoing humanitarian crisis since the Taliban’s return to power and the steep rise in poverty has forced families to give girls away for marriage at younger ages.