From the US to Bangladesh, underage brides are likely to leave education and face increased risks of poverty, domestic violence, and high rates of maternal mortality
What kind of place would set the age of consent at 17 – but allow pregnant girls as young as 11 to marry? Florida: its law is less progressive than Afghanistan’s. It is one of 25 US states that allow girls of any age to marry in certain circumstances, such as with judicial approval. Others have minimums set as low as 13.
Though boys too are affected, those affected are overwhelmingly female: almost nine in 10 children who marry are girls, and only rarely do they wed a peer. Almost a third wed men of 21 or older. Marriage is often seen as protecting girls, especially if they are pregnant, but it locks children into abusive relationships. In some states, child brides cannot initiate legal action such as a divorce – or even access refuges – because they are minors. Women who married as children are helping to lead the growing nationwide campaign to ban it, which has already brought change in Connecticut, Texas, Virginia and New York in the past two years. A bill banning marriage under 18 is now going through committees in Florida.