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The countries with the highest observed rates of child marriages below the age of 18 are Niger, Chad, Mali, Bangladesh, Guinea and the Central African Republic, with a rate above 60%.The practice began to be questioned in the 20th century, with the age of individuals' first marriage increasing in many countries and most countries increasing the minimum marriage age.Child marriage has widespread and long term consequences for child brides and grooms.Child marriage is related to child betrothal, and it includes civil cohabitation and court approved early marriages after teenage pregnancy.Providing a girl with a dowry at her marriage is an ancient practice which continues in some parts of the world.This requires parents to bestow property on the marriage of a daughter, which is often an economic challenge for many families.
As Friedman claims, "arranging and contracting the marriage of a young girl were the undisputed prerogatives of her father in ancient Israel." Most girls were married before the age of 15, often at the start of their puberty.
Child marriages were common throughout history for a variety of reasons including poverty, insecurity, as well as for political and financial reasons.
Today, child marriage is still fairly widespread, particularly in developing countries, such as parts of Africa, The incidence of child marriage has been falling in most parts of the world.
Bride's families would seek out any available bachelors and marry them to their daughters, before events beyond their control moved the boy away.
Persecution and displacement of Roma and Jewish people in Europe, colonial campaigns to get slaves from various ethnic groups in West Africa across the Atlantic for plantations, Islamic campaigns to get Hindu slaves from India across Afghanistan's Hindu Kush as property and for work, were some of the historical events that increased the practice of child marriage before the 19th century.
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Such fears and social pressures have been proposed as causes that lead to child marriages.