One in five or 23 million boys globally were married before the age of 15, the United Nation Children’s Fund, (UNICEF) says.
The United Nation agency also said in a new report that an estimated 115 million men around the world were married as children.
The UN agency in a press statement on Friday said the report is its first-ever in-depth analysis of child grooms.
Child marriage, though very common, is a violation of human rights. Although marriageable age varies by countries, UNICEF says marriage before the age of 18 is a fundamental violation of human rights.
The practice of child marriage is often discussed in relation to girls and very little is often said about the boys.
According to UNICEF, the practice of child marriage has been well-studied among girls, but there has been little information to date about the trend among boys.
“While the practice is more common among girls than boys, it is a violation of rights regardless of sex,” it said.
Using data from 82 countries, the study reveals that child marriage among boys is prevalent across a range of countries around the world, spanning sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, South Asia, and East Asia and the Pacific.
According to the data, the Central African Republic has the highest prevalence of child marriages among males (28 per cent), followed by Nicaragua (19 per cent) and Madagascar (13 per cent).
UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, said marriage steals childhood as “child grooms are forced to take on adult responsibilities for which they may not be ready.”
“As we mark the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we need to remember that marrying boys and girls off while they are still children runs counter to the rights enshrined in the Convention.
“Early marriage brings early fatherhood, and with it added pressure to provide for a family, cutting short education and job opportunities.”
According to the report, the new estimates bring the total number of child brides and child grooms to 765 million.
It said, “girls remain disproportionately affected, with one in five young women aged 20 to 24 years old married before their 18 birthday, as compared to one in 30 young men.”
Children most at risk of child marriage come from the poorest households, live in rural areas, and have little to no education. To curb the act, Ms Fore called for further research, investment and empowerment.
“We can end this violation,” she said.