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UN report warns of possible rise in child marriages

The number of girls who marry before their 18th birthday could increase dramatically over the next two decades, a new UN report warned Thursday.

If current trends continue, the tally of such unions will rise to 14.2 million a year in 2020, and 15.1 million each year in 2030, according to the report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Released on the first International Day of the Girl Child, the survey shows that despite efforts to rein in the practice, the frequency of such weddings has remained fairly constant in the developing world over the past decade.

"Child marriage is an appalling violation of human rights and robs girls of their education, health and long-term prospects," said UNFPA executive director Babatunde Osotimehin.

"Marriage for girls can lead to complications of pregnancy and childbirth, the main causes of death among 15-19-year-old girls in developing countries." In 2010, one in three women -- or 67 million -- aged 20-24 were wed before their 18th birthday in developing countries excluding China. Roughly half of these unions took place in Asia and another 20 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.

The practice also exists in Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Eastern Europe. In South Asia, Bangladesh has the highest prevalence of child marriage, with 66 percent. In the west African country of Niger, 75 percent of young women aged 20 to 24 were married before turning 18, according to 2010 figures.

If nothing is done to stop the custom, UNFPA estimates that, from now until 2030, 130 million girls in South Asia, 70 million girls in sub-Saharan Africa and 45.5 million girls in Latin America and the Caribbean risk facing a similar fate. But there is some good news.

AFP

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