The two words child and bride sound contradictory, as one usually considers marriage a facet of adult life. However, the practice of marrying young girls—many times before they reach age 18 and sometimes even before puberty—is common in developing countries, such as those in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

A United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) survey indicates that in many countries of sub-Saharan Africa, high percentages of girls between the age of 15 and 19 are married. For example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 74 percent of the girls are married by age 18, 50 percent in Mali, 57 percent in Niger, and 50 percent in Uganda. In South Asian countries—India, Nepal, and Bangladesh—the percentages are 38, 42, and 48 respectively. In the Middle East, ...

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