Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children in Child Marriages

Thematic Report: Unrecognised Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children in Child, Early and Forced Marriages

This report by ECPAT International and Plan International aims to contribute to deepening the appreciation of the interconnections linking CEFM to sexual abuse and exploitation of children and make suggestions for advocacy and programming activities that are committed to ending this practice.

Parents who marry their children before they reach legal age are typically motivated by predetermined social and sexual norms, low value attached to daughters, poverty or humanitarian crises.

Confronted with social pressure and family hardship, they may seek in marriage a form of protection to shield their children from destitution, household food insecurity and, ultimately, sexual harassment.

In the reality of the 700 million women alive today who were married before their 18th birthday, however, child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) may have been a route to systematic, albeit unrecognised, sexual abuse and exploitation. No longer children, not yet adults, child brides tend to be denied fulfilment of their fundamental rights and access to social services otherwise granted to unmarried children and married women.

The marginal social roles assigned to married girls discontinue the privileges of childhood, while precluding access to powers granted to adult members of their communities. 

This report by ECPAT International and Plan International aims to contribute to deepening the appreciation of the interconnections linking CEFM to sexual abuse and exploitation of children and make suggestions for advocacy and programming activities that are committed to ending this practice.

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Protection from violence, Sexual and reproductive health and rights, child marriage, Female genital mutilation, Gender-based violence