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In many countries, girls as young as eight are forced into marriage by their families, culture and economic situation.

These early unions, no matter the geography, often have catastrophic results: Young brides discontinue their educations. Youth and inexperience leave them vulnerable to abuse at the hands of their spouses.

Physical abuse is common among young brides, as they are simply too young to know how to behave properly as wives. They thus face the wrath of their husbands and in-laws, living in a culture of fear within their homes.

If they try to leave the marriage, they often fall victim to trafficking, prostitution and AIDS.

Young mothers are also more likely to have obstructed labor as their small bodies may be compromised during childbirth. Prolonged obstructed labor can then lead to fistula, a debilitating condition where the girl can no longer control her urine and bowel movements.

Sixteen-year-old Mejgon of Herat, Afghanistan, described losing her virginity after being sold by her father to a 60-year-old man for two boxes of heroin. "I don't know what the meaning of love is... In my whole life, I have never felt it."

Link: The Bride Price
Client: International Center for Research on Women
Published: May 4, 2010

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