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South Asia has world’s highest number of child brides, UN says | UNICEF News

UNICEF says there are 290 million child brides in the region, 45 percent of the global total.

South Asia has the highest number of child marriages in the world, according to new estimates released by UNICEF, as increased economic pressure and school closures due to COVID-19 force families to marry off their young daughters.

There are 290 million child brides in the region, 45 percent of the global total, the UN children’s agency said on Wednesday, calling for more to end the practice.

“The fact that South Asia has the highest burden of child marriage in the world is nothing short of tragic,” UNICEF South Asia Regional Director Noala Skinner said in a statement.

“Child marriage prevents girls from learning, endangers their health and wellbeing, and jeopardizes their future. Too many girls marry every child.”

A new study by the agency, which also included interviews and discussions at 16 sites in Bangladesh, India and Nepal, found that many parents believed marriage was the best option for their daughters whose learning options were limited during the COVID lockdown.

The legal age of marriage for women is 20 years in Nepal, 18 years in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and 16 years in Afghanistan. It is 16 years in Pakistan except Sindh where the minimum age is 18 years.

The UN study also found that financial pressures have forced families to marry off their daughters earlier to reduce family costs during the pandemic.

Potential solutions identified in discussions include developing social protection measures to fight poverty, protecting every child’s right to education, ensuring there is an appropriate framework to enforce laws and working harder to address social norms, the agency said.

“We must do more and strengthen partnerships to empower girls through education, including comprehensive sexuality education, and equip them with skills, while supporting communities to come together to end this entrenched practice,” Asia Pacific Regional Director Bjorn Anderson explain. United Nations Population Fund.

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