Taking choice seriously: understandings of decision-making about child marriage

Posted by Nicole Moran on February 18, 2021 at 10:19 am

In recent years, the international community has increasingly directed its attention to reducing the prevalence of child marriage, which is defined as marriage before the age of 18. Child marriage has been shown to disproportionately affect young women in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, and to have a range of adverse health impacts, particularly for women. This special issue demonstrates empirically the complexity of drivers of child marriage, contributing to emic understandings of the circumstances in which families and young women consider an early marriage the most secure pathway. The special issue calls for moving beyond girls and families as sites of intervention, and beyond programmatic emphases on individual choice and ‘tradition.’

In this introductory article, we draw attention to the consequences of the exclusive focus on negative consequences of child marriage, arguing that this (a) obscures the complexity of the structural issues driving child marriage, (b) hinders developing understanding of (perceived) positive outcomes of a marriage before the age of 18, such as (short-term) physical and economic security, and (c) forms an impediment to efforts to identify alternatives to child marriage which can produce similarly positive—and more long-term—results. Rather than departing from the premise that certain choices are better than others, we call for research and interventions that seek to understand and respond to the broader context in which choices are made.

Click here to read the full introductory article

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