UNICEF announced in a new report that the number of underage girls married each year is now estimated at 12 million. Even though the number remains too high, the total a decade ago was a depressing and embarrassing 37 million girls.
“Each and every child marriage prevented gives another girl the chance to fulfill her potential,” Anju Malhotra, UNICEF’s Principal Gender Advisor, says in a press release. “But given the world has pledged to end child marriage by 2030, we’re going to have to collectively redouble efforts to prevent millions of girls from having their childhoods stolen through this devastating practice.”
The data is widespread with major drops of more than a third in India and Ethiopia. The New York Times reports that in Bihar, a poor, agrarian state in northern India, a 2005 survey reported that 60 percent of surveyed women reported being underage when married. A decade later, 42.5 percent report being married under age 18.