Some have labelled it as modern day slavery. Child brides are forced to leave school, are rarely allowed to work and many become victims of domestic violence.
These young girls lose their freedom and childhood completely. Many also face serious health risks as their bodies are too young and underdeveloped for child bearing.
The experiences and effects of child marriage will be shown in a TV documentary featured on BBC World News GMT: Fri 27th April 13:30 and Sat 28th April 11:30 and 23:30; and on BBC News Channel BST: Sat 28th April 05:30, 14:30, 21:30 and Sun 29th April 03:30, 10:30, 22:30.
Meet Oli – The 12 year old working to inspire others
Oli is just 12 years old and a sponsored child with children’s charity Plan. He is an inspirational member of one of their children’s groups in northern Dhaka who work to raise awareness of the impact of early and forced marriage on children. Oli is helping to make a huge difference to poverty stricken families in Bangladesh.
“Behind our parents’ decisions to marry girls young is poverty – extreme poverty. If our parents get a good offer, sometimes it is very difficult to change their minds,” explains Oli
There are 25 children in Oli’s organisation and Plan has 60 similar clubs across the country.
Plan has reached around one million people with its anti-child marriage work while Oli himself has reached about 50,000.
Nargis’ story – Forced into marriage at just 12 years old
“My name is Nargis and I’m 19. I was 12 when child marriage shattered all my dreams. My family arranged for me to be married: my father decided for me, and my husband’s father decided for him. There was no scope for me to say no.
“On the day itself I was frightened: again and again I felt fear, fear, fear. I didn’t know what to do, or what was going to happen next. Once my grandmother and sister had gone, I had to go and live with my husband. I didn’t know him. That night I felt strange, and very scared.
“When I lived with my parents I had freedom. After I was married I lost this, and I can’t live the same way now. I feel very bad, because instead of going to school I live at my father-in-law's house and do all the household work.
“When I was at home I could share my feelings and emotions. Now that I’m married I don’t have any say and I have to abide by what my husband and my father and mother-in-law decide.
“Two years after my marriage, when I was 14, I gave birth to a baby boy, but there were complications after the birth. He survived for 16 days but then he died.
“When I was getting married, I had five close friends. Two are still in school, but three are married. I never see them now. When I was in school and with my friends, I was very happy: I really want to go back to school.
“I don’t think girls should marry before they’re 18. If they do, they face problems like I did with my baby. I want to tell other girls that the age I got married was not good for health, for family, for education - for anything.”
How is Plan helping in Bangladesh?
To help prevent forced child early marriage
Plan has been working hard to issue birth certificates to girls across Bangladesh. Having a birth certificate helps girls to prove they’re not old enough to marry.
Plan is also working with state organisations and authorities to raise public awareness of the problem by holding open events, theatre shows and workshops. These events help to educate communities and explain why it is important that girls wait until they are over 18 to be married.