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A report from World Bank and global charity Save the Children which said that at least 20,000 girls around the world are married off illegally each day and in many cases, they are permitted by national law. (Photo/Agency)

SC judgment on sex with wife aged below 18: With India’s showing concern over the practice of in India and its verdict that makes sex with wife aged below 18 years a punishable offence under the Indian Penal Code, comes a report from and global charity Save the Children which said that at least 20,000 girls around the world are married off illegally each day and in many cases, they are permitted by national law.

“More than 20,000 girls are married every day below the minimum age permitted by national law. In all, about 7.5 million girls are married illegally every year. In addition, close to 100 million girls are not protected against child marriage under the laws of their countries,” said a research from Save the Children and the World Bank.

“When a girl gets married too young, her role as a wife and a mother takes over. She is more likely to leave school, she may become pregnant and suffer abuse,” stated Carolyn Miles, president & CEO of Save the Children, adding “Laws banning the practice are an important first step. But millions of vulnerable girls will continue to be at risk unless child marriage is tackled head on. We need to change attitudes in communities so that we can end this harmful practice once and for all.”

“The longer a girl stays in education, the more likely it is that she grows up healthy, secures a livelihood and has healthy and educated children of her own.”

Report stressed that a growing number of countries are raising the legal age of marriage or eliminating exceptions under the law that allow early marriage with parental consent or court consent. However, implementing such laws is challenging. “More than two thirds of all child marriages are still taking place below the minimum age permitted by national law, showing the difficulty in ending the practice,” says report.

Report said that weak enforcement and a disconnect between national, customary, and religious laws are part of the issue. Deep-rooted traditions and beliefs mean that traditional leaders in communities still too often support the practice.

West and Central Africa is home to many of the countries with the highest rates of child marriage globally. In this region alone, 1.7 million child marriages are taking place below the national minimum age every year—one of the highest proportions globally. Some countries in the region are also affected by high rates of teenage pregnancy outside of formal marriages, too often a result of gender-based violence or exploitative relationships—which generally go unpunished. Fatmata, 16, from Sierra Leone was married last year. “I was fifteen years old when I met my husband. Right now, I’m not very happy because I didn’t have the chance to do what I wanted to do in life and now I’m pregnant.”

The analysis by Save the Children and the World Bank is calling for urgent action to tackle child marriage at both the national and international levels. Legal reform to set the minimum age for marriage at a minimum of 18 and eliminating exceptions are needed. But in addition, national strategies with well-designed targeted interventions are also needed, especially to enable girls to remain in school as a viable alternative to marriage, said report.

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