While teenage marriages are generally not forbidden in older cultures, it is not highly recommended anymore as well. Most teenagers do not have sufficient maturity yet to enter into something as big as marriage. As they have not yet fully developed physically and emotionally, many of these couples end up getting divorced or separated. This is not always the case, however; there are still some success stories about teenagers who stay married well into their older years. It was much more common during the ancient times, especially in Rome. Strong, paternalistic societies saw fathers deciding by themselves who their daughters should marry. The Medieval Period saw the prevalence of early marriages as well, with women marrying as early as fourteen years old. This was well before women started participating in the world outside the home, and before they took up their place in the academe and in the workplace. Up until now, however, this practice of marrying women early still exists in some place in the world. But what exactly are the top 10 countries with highest teen age marriages?
The story of early marriages as survival strategy is also the same in Niger, topping the top 10 countries with highest teen age marriages. In the country, one out of three girls gets married before the age of fifteen. Many parents marry off their daughters to survive—since it means one less mouth to feed, and the dowry money they would receive for the marriage could feed other mouths. Sadly, these parents seem to have no choice—many die of hunger each year in the country.
Early marriages are also prevalent in Bangladesh; one in three girls gets married before the age of fifteen, according to a UN report. This is also caused in great part by the customs and traditions of Bangladesh—it has a highly paternalistic culture. Women do not have enough opportunities for education and employment, and marrying a daughter to a financially stable man seems to be a survival strategy for some families. Thus, poverty is a major factor as to why these marriages seem to be the norm.
Somalia also has a high incidence of early marriages. A considerable section of Somalia’s population is agricultural, and in agricultural societies, the norm is early marriages combined with high birth rates. It has been pointed out that this could be due to the fact that the more children a family has, the more help it could get in working the land.
Early marriages—especially child marriages—is also an issue in Mali. The rate of underage marriages skyrocketed to over 80% at some point in its history, although this has seen a small decline since the late 1980s. The commonness of underage marriages seems to have contributed to desensitization in the country towards the issue, as it still persists.
5. Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone has one of the worst rates as well. Reports indicate that around 70% of teenage women in the country are married. Although it must be noted that early weddings have had a place in the culture and tradition of Sierra Leone, and this could be a contributing factor.
Pakistan is yet another country with a high incidence of early marriages. Nearly half of Pakistan’s female population marry before they turn 18. Reports say that 9% of women begin childbearing between the ages of fifteen and nineteen, with childbearing averages of four children.
7. Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso is another country where early and compelled marriages are quite common. This is despite a 1990 statute that sets the age of marriage eligibility at twenty two for men and eighteen for women.
The women of Nepal have the same story—since many women do not have enough opportunities to study and work, they usually end up getting married quite early. Families seem to prefer to marry their children at a young age especially if they have no work or schools to go to, to lessen the cost of feeding and caring for their daughters.
Mozambique is in the top ten as well. Early marriages and compelled marriages have a prevalence rate of over fifty percent annually. Unfortunately, this is usually caused by the poor opportunities for personal development in the country, in terms of education and employment. This creates a vicious cycle that perpetuates the incidence of teen age marriages.
Senegal starts the list of top 10 countries with highest teen age marriages. In the country, sixteen percent of young women get married before they reach fifteen—and it should be noted that marriages before eighteen are quite common in African countries.