39K Girls Forced to Marry Each Day
UN survey of 42 countries shows more than a third of girls married
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 8, 2013 11:48 AM CST
Zali Idy, 12, poses in her bedroom in Hawkantaki, Niger, July 18, 2012. Zali was married in 2011. At least a third of all girls under age 18 are married in 42 countries, according to the UN.   (AP Photo/Jerome Delay-file)

(Newser) – How young is too young to get married? In many countries, the answer to that question would disturb you. A new UN Population Fund survey of 42 countries found that more than a third of all girls under the age of 18 in them are married, many presumably against their will. Child brides are common in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in impoverished nations. Niger has the highest percentage, with 75% of its girls marrying before they turn 18, the AP reports.

Other nations with big numbers include Chad (68%), Bangladesh (66%), South Sudan (50%), and India, which, thanks to its huge population, has the most child brides. Human Rights Watch released a report yesterday focusing on South Sudan, blaming child marriage for its "pronounced gender gaps in school enrollment" and "soaring maternal mortality rates," and presenting testimony from one girl forced to marry a 75-year-old at age 15. "This man went to my uncles and paid a dowry of 80 cows. I resisted," she says. "They said, 'You will marry this old man whether you like it or not because he has given us something to eat.' They beat me so badly."