Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran, UNAMID

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Samia El Nagar, Sharifa Bamkar, Liv Tønnessen (2017). Girls, Child Marriage, and Education in Red Sea State, Sudan: Perspectives on Girls’ Freedom to Choose. Bergen: Chr. Michelsen Institute (Sudan Report SR 2017:3)

Child marriage is any formal marriage or informal union where one or both parties are under 18 years of age. Child marriage affects both boys and girls, but disproportionately affects girls. Each year, 15 million girls are married before the age of 18, and that number is growing. Worldwide, 700 million women alive today were married before their 18th birthday and more than one in three girls are married before age of 15. Although the largest numbers of child brides are in South Asia, most of the countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage are in Africa. Sudan is among the African countries with a high prevalence of child marriage. In Sudan, 10.7% of women aged 15 to 49 were married before the age of 15, and 38% were married before the age of 18. 

Child marriage is a human rights violation affecting children’s and women’s rights to health, education, equality, non-discrimination, and freedom from violence and exploitation. Child marriage has harmful effects on young girls. Neither physically nor emotionally ready to become wives and mothers, child marriage exposes young girls to a wide range of health risks. The minds and bodies of young girls are physically unprepared for sexual activity and childbirth, increasing the risks of maternal health complications. Early pregnancy increases the risk of both maternal and child mortality. Added to that, girl brides are more likely to suffer domestic violence and marital rape. Child brides are rarely allowed to continue their education. With limited access to education and subsequent economic opportunities, child brides and their families are more likely to live in poverty.

Arabic Version of the report

Liv Tønnessen

Director of Center on Law and Social Transformation and Senior Researcher