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At last month's United Nations summit on the Sustainable Development Goals, child marriage did not get top billing. Yet ending this cruel practice, which steals girls' childhoods, bodily autonomy and chance to build their own futures, is essential to achieve a range of SDGs, including securing gender equality, improving health and delivering a quality education and economic opportunities to all.Born of antiquated patriarchal traditions and sustained by ignorance, poverty and socio-economic inequality, child marriage remains widespread across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. In 2004, Morocco reformed its family law to curtail child marriage.As a result, more than 30,000 underage girls in Morocco are still being forced to marry each year.What is really needed to protect girls and women are properly enforced laws that criminalize facilitation of or participation in child marriage. Individuals who officiate at child marriages and adults who take a child bride should face severe penalties. If that is not enough to convince governments and civil-society leaders to fight to end child marriage, perhaps the boon to development will be.
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