© 2006 Khumar Taghieva, Courtesy of PhotoshareThis post, written by Rebecca Shore, originally appeared on the k4Health blog and can be accessed here.

The world is a scary place, especially for women. Many live their lives in fear and are constantly treated like second-class citizens. Photographer Stephanie Sinclair of National Geographic took a close look at child marriage and created a 10-minute film Too Young to Wed: The Secret World of Child Brides. She captured the true consequences of the practice of child marriage. This practice, though illegal nearly everywhere worldwide, is still practiced by many cultures, in many countries. This video focuses on India, Yemen, Afghanistan, Nepal, and Ethiopia and the acts of child marriage. Throughout the video, several girls are interviewed about the lives they live as young brides. It is dramatic and at times hard to watch, but it gives a glimpse into the pain and fear that runs these young girls lives.

Though child marriage is on the decline, it has been a slow decline. Because child brides are used for their family’s financial gain and because of myths—like the myth that virginity cures HIV— child marriage continues throughout much of the developing world. According to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), if present trends continue, 100 million girls will marry over the next decade. In countries like Niger, Chad, and Mali, the rate of girls married before 18 is over 70%.

The negative results of child marriage are astounding. Child brides are often victims of abuse, rape, and even murder, and they have little to almost no input into their own decisions. Once a girl gets married she is usually forced to leave school, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty. However, the more educated girls are, the less likely they are to become child brides. Maternal mortality and obstructed labor leading to fistula are also common among child brides both because young girls’ bodies are still immature and because of a  lack of knowledge about maternal health, lack of control over medical decisions, and lack of access to timely and adequate health care.

Child marriage is a devastating practice that is still all too common in the poorest countries in the world and continues to perpetuate poverty. Organizations and campaigns to end child marriage are helping to change the landscape for girls everywhere. The more people who are aware of this practice, the more we can hope to change and end this behavior. Everywhere in the world, women are not just fighting for equality, they’re often fighting for their lives.

For more information or to get involved, take a look at these organizations that are committed to the cause:

For more information on Stephanie Sinclair, visit her web site.

To learn more about early marriage and youth sexual and reproductive health, read the IYWG YouthLens, “Addressing Early Marriage of Young and Adolescent Girls.”