The Lives of Child Brides, as Captured Through a Photographer’s Lens

BY Lauren Knapp  July 11, 2011 at 12:33 PM EST

The practice of child marriage is far more common throughout the world than many might suspect. According to UNICEF, as many as 50 million girls in developing countries were married before they turned 18 and 100 million more are expected to marry in the next decade. Child brides can be as young as 5 or 6 when they enter marriages, often with much older men.

Stephanie Sinclair has spent nearly a decade photographing the communities that practice child marriage. She has documented the weddings and lives of young girls in Nepal, India, Yemen, Afghanistan, the United States and elsewhere. In each country, Sinclair said, the community uses religion to justify the tradition.

Hari Sreenivasan recently talked with Sinclair about her work:

Sinclair’s photographs were published in National Geographic Magazine along with an article titled “Too Young to Wed” by journalist Cynthia Gorney.

Sinclair said that the families who participate child marriage often do so out of desperation or necessity. They may be too poor to care for all of their children, or hoping to provide long-term security for their daughters. In societies where women who have lost their virginity are considered unqualified for marriage, parents often seek to secure their daughters’ futures at a very young age. She said education is the most effective way to combat child marriage.

For more from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting:

Follow Stephanie Sinclair and Hari Sreenivasan on Twitter.