File - A Saudi man stands in front of a wedding dress at a shop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Yemen are the only Arab countries that do not have laws that set a minimum age for marriage, Aug. 3, 2008. (AP Photo)
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Cultural traditions and a lack of legal protections around the world are driving tens of millions of girls into early marriage, subjecting them to violence, poverty and mistreatment, an international human rights group says.The 32-page report found that despite laws that set a minimum age for marriage in many countries, social norms continue to provide a veneer of legitimacy to child marriage in remote villages and even in developed countries. Child marriage is defined as a marriage before age 18 .In some countries, families encourage early marriage to protect young girls from premarital sex and to uphold a family's honor, according to the report.The U.N. population fund says rates of child marriage are highest in the West African nation of Niger, where 75 percent of girls are married before they turn 18, and a third are wed before age 15 .In Bangladesh, the rate of child marriage is 66 percent, and in Central African Republic and Chad it is 68 percent.
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