Child marriage spans continents, language, religion, caste. In India the girls will typically be attached to boys four or five years older. In Yemen, Afghanistan, and other countries with high early marriage rates, the husbands may be young men or middle-aged widowers or abductors who rape first and claim their victims as wives afterward, as is the practice in certain regions of Ethiopia. 

Some of these marriages are business transactions, barely adorned with additional rationale, a debt cleared in exchange for an 8-year-old bride or a family feud resolved by the delivery of a virginal 12-year-old cousin. Those, when they happen to surface publicly, make for clear and outrage-inducing news fodder from great distances away. 

National Geographic writer Cynthia Gorney, takes an in-depth look at the illicit, heartbreaking world of child brides. Though the practice often defies national laws, child marriage is still understood by communities around the globe as an appropriate route for young women, especially when the alternatives are even more bleak.

"Whenever I saw him, I hid. I hated to see him," Tahani (in pink) recalls of the early days of her marriage to Majed, when she was 6 and he was 25. The young wife posed for this portrait with former classmate Ghada, also a child bride, outside their mountain home in Hajjah.
Asia, a 14-year-old mother, washes her new baby girl at home in Hajjah while her 2-year-old daughter plays. Asia is still bleeding and ill from childbirth yet has no education or access to information on how to care for herself.
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