The UNICEF has, after its first-ever in-depth analysis of child grooms, said that an estimated 11.5 crore boys and men around the world were married as children. Of which 1 in 5 children (2.3 crore) were married off before the age of 15.
The study, which was carried out using data compiled from 82 countries, revealed 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.
"Marriage steals childhood," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore in a statement issued on Friday.
"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."
According to the data, the Central African Republic has the highest prevalence of child marriage among males (28 per cent), followed by Nicaragua (19 per cent) and Madagascar (13 per cent).
The new estimates bring the total number of child brides and child grooms to 76.5 crore. Girls remain disproportionately affected, UNICEF observed, with 1 in 5 young women aged 20 to 24 years old married before their 18th birthday, compared to 1 in 30 young men.
While the prevalence, causes, and impact of child marriage among girls have been extensively studied, little research exists on child marriage among boys. However, children most at risk of child marriage come from the poorest households, live in rural areas, and have little to no education, UNICEF noted.
"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," said UNICEF Executive Director.