World Vision Report Finds Young Brides at Risk of Contracting HIV/AIDS
A report recently released by World Vision has found that girls in developing countries who marry before age 18 -- whose numbers are expected to double to 100 million in the next 10 years -- are at an increased risk of HIV/AIDS, Reuters reports.
According to the report, young brides are forced to have sex before their bodies are ready, and few have access to reliable contraception and reproductive health information. The report added that "[f]orced sex causes skin and tissue damage that makes a female more susceptible to contracting sexually transmitted infections from her husband."
Young brides also typically end their education upon marriage and are more likely to experience pregnancy complications that sometimes end in death because their bodies are not fully developed.
According to the report, child marriages occur worldwide but are most common in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and parts of Central America. "It is most prevalent in communities and households where the starkest poverty mixes with cultural traditions and lack of education to limit a girl's perceived value and potential," the report said. A global food crisis also has pushed more families in developing countries to marry their daughters to cope with poverty, the report found. The highest child marriage rates were recorded in Bangladesh, where about 53% of girls are married before age 15, followed by Niger at about 38%, Chad at about 35%, and Ethiopia and India at about 31%.
The report said that raising awareness is crucial to ending child marriage and that schools and community workshops can help at-risk families. It added that working with tribal leaders, faith healers and other community members is important, as is ensuring that families are able to work and have enough food so that they do not have to marry their young daughters (Kahn, Reuters, 9/4).