An Afghan girl eat a lollipop during a break from classMarriage is a central element in many people’s lives. Particularly for women, the regulations and conditions surrounding their rights within marriage affect the extent to which they can realize their rights. Early marriage remains common in many areas of the world, particularly among low-income families. Girls are much more likely than boys to be married as children, with serious adverse consequences for their health, education, well-being, and autonomy.

The WORLD Policy Analysis Center has systematically analyzed and developed data related to marriage for adults and children.

Topics covered include:

Marriage Rights

*Note: Data for starred sub-topics is forthcoming.


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (1948) recognizes the right to equal rights within marriage in Article 16, stating that “(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.” Article 16 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (1979) provides that “(1) State parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations and in particular shall ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women: (a) The same right to enter into marriage; (b) The same right to freely choose a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent; (c) The same rights and responsibilities during marriage and at its dissolution;” as well as the same rights and responsibilities regarding children, and the same personal and financial rights as husband and wife.

Furthermore, Article 23 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (1966) states that “No marriage shall be entered into without the free and full consent of the intending spouses,” and that “Parties to the present Covenant shall take appropriate steps to ensure equality of rights and responsibilities of spouses as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. In the case of dissolution, provision shall be made for the necessary protection of any children.”

Child Marriage

The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (1979) provides for the prohibition of child marriage in Article 16(2), stating that, “The betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage and to make the registration of marriages in an official registry compulsory.” The article is designed to protect all children and youth up to 18 years old from the extensively documented adverse effects on health, education, and autonomy of early marriage.