Half of South Asia's girls marry before 18: UN

By AFP
Published: September 12, 2014
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Report says one in five girls are married before age of 15, giving region highest rates of child marriage in the world. STOCK IMAGE

Report says one in five girls are married before age of 15, giving region highest rates of child marriage in the world. STOCK IMAGE

NEW DELHI: Nearly half of all girls in South Asia marry before they turn 18, according to a United Nations report that lays bare what it calls “glaring inequalities”.

The report, published by the UN children’s agency UNICEF on Thursday, also revealed that more than a million newborn babies still die every year in the region, often due to inadequate healthcare.

“South Asia continues to be one of the riskiest places in the world to become pregnant or give birth, with the second highest number of maternal deaths worldwide,” said Karin Hulshof, regional director for UNICEF in South Asia.

“Far too many children get married, and far too many girls are never born.”

Sex selection – where parents choose to terminate a pregnancy if they discover their unborn child is a girl – remains prevalent in parts of South Asia, and particularly in India, UNICEF said.

“Gender-biased sex selection favouring boys is a manifestation of deeply embedded social, economic, cultural and political factors that discriminate against women and girls,” said the report, adding such practices could lead to girls being trafficked for sex or forcibly married.

One in five girls are married before the age of 15, giving the region the highest rates of child marriage in the world, the report said.

In Bangladesh, which has the highest rate in the region, two out of every three girls marry before they reach adulthood, putting them at risk of sexual exploitation and domestic violence.

The report also highlighted the impact of chronic malnutrition on children in South Asia, with nearly 40 percent of all under-fives suffering from stunted growth.

Rates of stunting – a condition that causes lasting damage and kills around a million children every year worldwide – have fallen from around 60 percent in 1990 to just under 40 percent today.

But there are significant regional disparities, and nearly half of all Indian under-fives – over 60 million children – have stunted growth.

The report, released to mark the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, said the last quarter-century had seen significant improvements in the lives of children in all eight countries of South Asia – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

But it said persistent gender discrimination was undermining progress, while government spending on health, education and social protection remained far below that of other regions.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • Moiz Omar
    Sep 12, 2014 - 1:53PM

    This trend needs to reverse.Recommend

  • Edna Dsouza
    Sep 12, 2014 - 3:35PM

    This is a very brutal reality of females across South Asia. The only way to handle this is to educate by teaching indiviuals that man and woman are equal and that their should be no discrimanation. Females need to stand up for their rights,but apparently its sad to see that most of them dont even know what rights they have in a society and how to fight against it.

    Education and awarness are only the two weapons that can help in wiping away this manifestationRecommend

  • Realist
    Sep 12, 2014 - 6:44PM

    Oh the magic age of 18 when a child suddenly becomes an adult. A child becomes an adult biologically and not at the magic number of 18 years.

    Recommend

  • M A ABBAS
    Sep 12, 2014 - 8:55PM

    and the majority of the rest cannot find suitable soul partner for the rest of their lives.

    Recommend

  • SJ
    Sep 13, 2014 - 4:51AM

    @Realist:
    Your comment is so subjective. What do you mean by biologically? Is it the puberty, mental growth or physical strength?
    Some girls are reaching puberty at age 9.
    Some girls are more sensible at age 13 than most of your 18 year old boys. Some girls get physically strong much earlier than other.
    You have to draw a line somewhere that is easily measurable and that is age. That’s minimum age, if parents believe their child is still not mature enough then wait longer.

    Recommend

  • Gp65
    Sep 13, 2014 - 7:28AM

    @Realist:
    Teen pregnancies are more likely to result in maternal mortality or infant mortality.

    Recommend

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