Talish and Alka (names changed) married when they were 17 years old. The wedding was the first time they met. Talish had to drop out of school due to pressure to support his new wife. He wants Alka to finish school and find a job before they have a baby, but for many other child brides, childbearing occurs soon after marriage.

Violence and harmful traditional practices affect adolescents’ physical and emotional well-being, and they carry adverse consequences throughout their lives

Child marriage, sexual abuse, bullying – millions of adolescents worldwide experience the worst kinds of rights violations. Millions more children, not yet victims, are inadequately protected against them. Adults must not only protect adolescents from violence and harmful traditional practices, but empower them to protect themselves in their public, private and online worlds.

25 million child marriages have been prevented due to progress during the past decade

Marriage before the age of 18 is a fundamental violation of human rights. Globally, the practice of child marriage has been on the decline. During the past decade, the proportion of young women who were married as children decreased from nearly 1 in 4 (23 per cent) to around 1 in 5 (19 per cent). This has largely been driven by progress in South Asia to stop the practice. Still, South Asia remains home to the largest absolute number of child brides, while West and Central Africa has the highest prevalence (37 per cent). 

Despite progress, no region is on track to reach the goal to eliminate child marriage by 2030. COVID-19 further threatens progress, with up to 10 million more girls now at risk of becoming child brides in the next decade due to impacts of the pandemic. 


SDG Target 5.3 calls to eliminate all harmful practices such as child marriage and early or forced marriage by 2030.

The highest levels of child marriage are found in sub-Saharan Africa

How many adolescent girls experience violence at the hands of their partners?

Within marriages, informal unions or dating relationships, girls are more at risk than boys of experiencing violence at the hands of their partners.  

In nearly half of the 67 countries with available data, more than 1 in 5 ever-married adolescent girls had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a husband or partner within the past year. These include countries spanning regions from Asia to sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean, indicating that adolescent girls everywhere are exposed to this form of violence. 

SDG Target 5.2 calls to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private spheres by 2030. 

Adolescent girls in many countries are subjected to violence at the hands of their intimate partners

How many adolescents experience violent discipline at the hands of their caregivers?

Adolescents are also exposed to violence at the hands of their caregivers, who may rely on physical force or verbal intimidation for discipline. 

In 83 of the 91 countries with available data, more than half of adolescents aged 10–14 were subjected to violent discipline (psychological aggression and/or physical punishment) in the home within the previous month. In all countries with data, at least 4 in 10 were subjected to violent discipline, with levels exceeding 90 per cent in 10 countries. 

SDG Target 16.2 calls to, by 2030, end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence, including violent discipline, against children. 

Many adolescent boys and girls experience discipline in the form of physical force or verbal intimidation from their caregivers

Where are adolescents most at risk of dying from homicide?

Adolescents everywhere can be exposed to lethal violence. However, the risk of dying from homicide varies according to sex, age, and region of the world. Globally, the risk of homicide is higher for boys, and higher for older adolescents (15–19-year-olds). 

Adolescents in Europe and Asia are the least likely to die from homicide. Latin America is home to the highest adolescent homicide rate, and to the five countries with the highest homicide rates among adolescents in the world. Slightly less than 10 per cent of the world’s adolescents live in the Latin America and Caribbean region, yet in 2019, more than 40 per cent of all adolescent homicides occurred there. 

SDG Target 16.1 calls to reduce deaths related to violence by 2030 

The homicide rate in Latin America and the Caribbean is five times higher than the global average

How common is bullying among adolescents around the world?

Worldwide, around 1 in 3 students aged 13–15 experience bullying, a form of peer violence. Whether online or in person, bullying undermines an adolescent’s physical and emotional health, well-being and school achievement. Adolescents have cited bullying as a reason to contemplate or attempt suicide. 

Although peer violence can take many forms, available data suggest that bullying is by far the most common and that boys and girls are equally at risk. In 13 countries with data, at least half of students aged 13–15 years reported being bullied. 

Bullying is a reality for a significant proportion of adolescents around the world