How many children in the world would you guess are currently married, and how young is the youngest? The idea of child marriage seems archaic: it brings with it echoes of medieval times, or of royal alliances where securing an early marriage led to consolidation of property and power. Chances are that when we hear the term today, most of us don’t imagine a five-year-old in contemporary rural India who—despite a national law against it—is getting married to a man eight times her age.
Evidence suggests that we should, though. Today, child marriage is prevalent across the developing world, a reality in more than fifty countries. It can involve girls as young as five and six, and although some communities try to prohibit sex until the wife…