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Who is the youngest person to marry someone?

Marriage is an important milestone in many cultures around the world. However, in some places child marriage still occurs, often driven by poverty, cultural norms, and a lack of educational opportunities for girls. This raises the concerning question – who is the youngest person to ever marry someone?

The answer varies depending on location and time period, as cultural practices and legal regulations on marriage age have changed over time. Examining marriage records and news reports from the past century can provide some insight into disturbingly young marriage ages in certain contexts. However, pinpointing the verifiably youngest marriage is difficult due to limited records and the motives of families marrying off children to conceal illegal marriages.

This article will examine the potential contenders for the youngest person to marry, analyzing the cultural and economic factors behind child marriage trends around the world. Understanding the root causes and repercussions of child marriage is key to promoting more ethical practices and protecting human rights.

Child Marriage Overview

Child marriage, defined as a formal marriage or informal union before age 18, remains widespread despite international agreements prohibiting the practice. According to UNICEF, over 650 million women alive today were married as children. Girls living in poverty, rural areas, and countries with weaker legal protections tend to be most affected.

Reasons for child marriage may include:

  • Cultural tradition – In places where early marriage is the norm, families may not question the practice.
  • Dowry – Marrying daughters young can require smaller dowries.
  • Economics – Securing a daughter’s future through marriage may be seen as necessary in poor communities.
  • Gender norms – Girls may be seen as a burden, while their chastity and fertility heighten in value.
  • instability – Conflict and disaster increase incentives to marry daughters young.

Consequences of child marriage are often dire, including higher maternal and infant mortality rates, truncated education, increased domestic violence risk, and entrenched poverty. Human rights organizations advocate 18 as the minimum marriage age due to the extensive harms.

However, children as young as 10 being married off still occurs in certain areas. Next we will look at some of the potential contenders for the youngest verifiable marriage.

Potential Contenders for Youngest Marriage

Nujood Ali – Age 10

In 2008, 10-year-old Nujood Ali from Yemen was married off to a man over three times her age. She endured physical and sexual abuse before seeking a divorce. Her courageous efforts, with the help of local advocates, led to the first child marriage annulment in Yemen.

Nujood became a figurehead against child marriage, even meeting with Hillary Clinton. However, her verified age and location make her a strong contender for the youngest marriage in recent decades. Child marriage remains widespread in Yemen, with UNICEF estimating 32% of girls are married before 18.

Poverty drives many child marriages, with dowries offering income to poor families. However, reform efforts are ongoing, with advocates pushing to curb traditions allowing child brides as young as 8.

Nojoud Mohammed – Age 8

Nojoud Mohammed, another young girl from Yemen, is often cited as potentially being an even younger bride than Nujood Ali. In 2008, at just age 8, she was married off to a man over twice her age. She endured rape and beatings before seeking a divorce with the help of her father and advocates.

Nojoud’s case gained international attention as another shocking example of child marriage. However, her exact age is disputed. Some sources list her as young as 8 when married, while others say she was closer to 10. Due to the uncertainty over her precise age, her case remains hard to confirm as the youngest marriage. But her traumatic experiences provide insight into the grave risks facing girls married before puberty.

Unnamed Syrian Refugee – Age 8

The Syrian civil war precipitated a refugee crisis placing many girls at higher risk of child marriage. In 2014, the UN uncovered an unnamed Syrian refugee girl aged only 8 that had been married off to an 18-year-old man in a refugee camp.

Child protection agencies aim to combat marriages among the hundreds of thousands of young Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq. But families struggling in poverty frequently see marriage as the only option to provide for daughters. This nameless 8-year-old bride remains one of the youngest recently recorded cases of child marriage.

Historic Cases of Child Marriage

While poverty, conflict, and weak legal protections contribute to child marriages today, looking further back in history reveals even more shocking cases of extremely young brides.

Lina Medina – Age 5

One of the youngest verified marriages involves Lina Medina of Peru. In 1933, at just age 5, she gave birth and was discovered to be 7 months pregnant. The father was identified as her 17-year-old cousin.

Doctors documented her case as precocious puberty, though sexual abuse remains the suspected cause. Lina had begun menstruating at age 3, complicating determining her biological maturity. Her son was raised believing she was his sister.

While no marriage certificate was found, Lina remains one of the youngest recorded mothers in history. Her case highlights the egregious failures of social services and justice to intervene in abusive situations.

Lakshmi Sargara – Age 1

In Rajasthan, India, a 2011 arranged marriage involved 1-year-old Lakshmi Sargara wed to a 3-year-old boy. The families aimed to uphold local marriage customs and form a marital alliance. However, the wedding was condemned as illegal child marriage under Indian national law setting the minimum age at 18 for girls.

This case demonstrates how strong cultural traditions can perpetuate child marriage despite legal prohibitions. Fortunately, greater awareness and enforcement of child rights has helped reduce underage marriage rates in India over recent decades. But more progress is still needed to end the practice.

Arguments Against Child Marriage

These disturbing cases of girls marrying before puberty or in infancy provide evidence of the harmful implications of child marriage. Key reasons this practice violates human rights include:

Lack of Consent

Children lack the maturity and autonomy to make an informed choice to marry. Forced marriage deprives girls of voice in shaping their futures.

Health Risks

Underage girls face higher risks of complications and death in pregnancy and childbirth. Early pregnancy also increases infant mortality rates.

Abuse and Exploitation

With older husbands, vast age differences magnify risks of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. Lack of status and power prevent child brides from leaving abusive situations.

Education Loss

Girls frequently leave school after marriage, entrenching poverty and gender inequality. Lost education hinders personal growth and economic opportunities.

Psychological Harm

Forced sexual relations, domestic abuse, social isolation, and loss of childhood traumatize young brides, impacting long-term mental health.

Poverty Cycles

Marrying girls young often means they then bear children as children. This perpetuates intergenerational poverty cycles.

Progress Against Child Marriage

Despite sobering statistics on child marriage prevalence, global movements to empower girls have made tangible progress:

  • Legal Frameworks – International agreements like the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child establish protections against harmful practices like child marriage.
  • Education Access – Ensuring girls complete secondary education significantly reduces child marriage rates.
  • Enforcement – Prosecuting families who marry daughters young sends a strong deterrent message.
  • Awareness – Media campaigns and public education help shift social mindsets on appropriate marriage age.
  • Alternatives – Successful programs provide life skills, microfinance, and mentoring to empower girls beyond early marriage.

While deeply ingrained cultural habits take time to change, combined grassroots and policy efforts have moved the needle in lowering rates of child marriage across hotspots like India and Bangladesh. Providing girls with options to reach their potential remains the key antidote to marrying them off as children.


Examining the complex factors behind child marriage highlights the difficult balance between respecting traditions and protecting human rights. No single law or program will eliminate the practice overnight. Patience and understanding cultural contexts is key, while remaining firm that the behaviors violating girls’ rights must end.

Giving girls voices and choices over their futures ultimately empowers families and communities toward more ethical and compassionate norms. The stories of the youngest marriage cases provide a tragic reminder of what is at stake for the millions still at risk today. But ongoing advocacy and education programs provide hope that cultural habits can shift over time if people are exposed to new ways of thinking about young girls’ value and potential.