Some 115 million boys worldwide have entered marriage before the age of 18, according to a new study by the UN's children's agency. The marriage of minors "steals childhood," said UNICEF's executive director.
Child marriage is a problem that affects girls as well as boys, with early wedlock damaging children's chances of gaining a proper education and having good work opportunities, UNICEF said.
Some 115 million men now aged between 20 and 24 were married off before their 18th birthdays, according to results released on Friday of a worldwide study by the UN's children's agency. One in five of those was wed before his 15th birthday, the study showed.
The study across 82 countries, the first to look at the early marriage of boys, found the highest prevalence of child grooms in the Central African Republic, at 28%. CAR was followed by Nicaragua at 19% and Madagascar at 13%.
Education, work affected
In a statement, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore stressed the detrimental effects of early marriage on boys' welfare, saying it robbed them of their childhood.
"Child grooms are forced to take on adult responsibilities for which they may not be ready. Early marriage brings early fatherhood, and with it added pressure to provide for a family, cutting short education and job opportunities," she said.
UNICEF said, however, that girls continued to be more likely to wed young, with one in five women aged 20 to 24 having been married before the age of 18 compared with one in 30 men. Together, the number of married boys and girls stands at around 765 million, the study showed.
The United Nations has made it a goal for child marriages to be banned in all countries by 2030.
Read more: Indonesia: why underage girls are marrying
tj/sms (Reuters, dpa, epd, KNA)