A first-ever study into the incidence of child grooms has found that as many as 1 in 5 boys around the globe was married before the age of 15. The data revealed that a shocking 115 million boys and men are married before reaching the legal age. Twenty-three million among them married before the age of 15. The study, conducted by UNICEF, is the first that looked into child marriage in 82 countries in the past ten years. While much has been done in terms of research into the causes of underage marriages in women, the reasons for the heavy prevalence of male underage marriages are as yet to be studied. However, the UNICEF study finds that the concentration is higher in household with low or minimal incomes. Areas with high prevalence of child grooms includes Central African Republic (28 per cent), followed by Nicaragua (19 per cent) and Madagascar (13 per cent). “Marriage steals childhood,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “Child grooms are forced to take on adult responsibilities for which they may not be ready. Early marriage brings early fatherhood, and with it added pressure to provide for a family, cutting short education and job opportunities.”
The numbers are worrying as the new data jacks up the total number of children getting married before the legal age to 765 million. However, girls remain disproportionately affected. One in five women between the age of 20 to 24 years old were married before they turned 18, compared to 1 in 30 young men. Though the numbers are still worse for women, 1 in 30 males is married before 18. Cases of child marriage have reduced globally, with a 3 percent reduction recorded in 2018 from the incidences in the previous year, the data casts fresh shadows over how issues of child security and safety need to be pursued. While several policies are in place for protecting child brides, authorities need to start looking at child grooms to ensure the safety of all children.
In India, which remains home to one of the largest number of child brides, the incidence of underage marriage in girls is reducing. Though 14.1 percent girls in 15-18 age band and living in rural areas are married. New data from the Global Childhood Report 2019 reveals that there has been a 51 percent reduction in child brides in India over the past 19 years. No research on the incidence of child grooms as yet exists.