Extreme weather events have many unexpected indirect consequences, including an increase in the rate of child marriages.
This is the surprising conclusion of a paper in the journal International Social Work by a team from Ohio State University, which looked at 20 studies connecting droughts, floods and other extreme weather events to rates of child, early and forced marriages.
One of the most noticeable correlations was seen in Bangladesh, where in years where there was a heatwave lasting more than 30 days, the number of marriages involving girls between 11 and 14 increased by 50%.
Such marriages are largely a matter of economics, according to the researchers. Families under stress are not able to support daughters and seek to marry them off.
Fiona Doherty, the lead author of the report, says the effect also depends on local custom. In places such as Vietnam where the groom’s family pays the bride’s family, disasters were linked with increased child marriage. But in India where more commonly the bride’s family pays the groom’s, young girls are less likely to get married after a drought.
Doherty notes that in addition to weather conditions, education is a key factor in the child marriage rate. More educated girls were less likely to be married off early, and more educated parents were less likely to marry off young daughters.