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A Multi-Sector Approach to Health Risks and Consequences of Child, Early, and Forced Marriage

Child marriage is an harmful practice affecting millions of children and especially girls across the world and it must be addressed with a multi-dimensional approach. Although the increased national and international efforts all around the world decreases the rate of child marriages, this practice still remains to be a social problem. Many intertwined and mutually-reinforcing factors such as poverty, societal norms, harmful practices, socially created gender roles for girls and boys etc., play a role in leading to child marriages.

There are many studies showing that the number of child, early and forced marriages (CEFM) increases in times of conflict and humanitarian crisis. It is observed that the rate of early marriages increases inversely proportional to the education level of parents and children. Despite global improvements in gender equality, girls are still more likely than boys to marry as children and do unpaid work. They are also at a significantly higher risk of gender-based violence and receive less education than boys.

While CEFM entails many risks and adverse consequences, perhaps the most important of all is related to health. Because health risks and burden of disease; triggers negativities about health, quality of life and “right to life” one after another. These results include preventable deaths and disability. This study focusing on CEFM-related health risks and negative health consequences was conducted using qualitative survey methodology. In this context, interviews were conducted with service providers from 83 different institutions and positions in 10 provinces. Interviews confirmed that service providers regard CEFM as a social problem and have opinions and experience about its causes and multi-layered nature.

Permanent steps and interventions to be taken within the framework of a multi-sectoral approach will play a key role in achieving the indicators of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the results of the “International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Action Plan”. More importantly, it will provide long-term and lasting benefits to the development of health indicators in our country, to decrease burden of disease and expenses. 

A qualitative study focusing by UNFPA Turkey has been prepared on the risks and results of child, early, and forced marriages on health and it is based on in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with relevant service providers, public officials, civil society workers, and academics working in this field. This study reveals many health problems caused by child marriages and adolescent pregnancies, such as increased risk of maternal and newborn mortality, miscarriages, preterm births, difficult delivery, growth retardation during pregnancy, low birth weight, severe bleeding, fistula and tears, sexually transmitted infections, and postnatal complications. In addition to presenting the health-related burdens of child, early, and forced marriages, the study discusses many suggestions and interventions to address, manage and prevent the issue of child marriages from a health sector perspective with a multi-sectoral approach. The research also presents the reasons of child marriages, domestic and international legislation on child marriage, and current data on the subject.

The report includes a joint approach to the issue of child marriage; the situation in the world and in Turkey; causes of child, early, and forced marriage; problems caused by child, early, and forced marriage; health risks and consequences of child, early, and forced marriage; legislative arrangements relating to child, early, and forced marriage; research method and data analysis; health risks and consequences of child, early, and forced marriage and multi-factor causes; suggestions for preventing negative health consequences of child, early and forced marriage; and suggestions for multi-factor measures and interventions.

To find out more, check the latest UNFPA Turkey's report out.