Unless urgent action is taken, there will be 134 million more child brides in the next 12 years, according to a report by Save the Children.
It said that fifty million child marriages could be prevented by 2030 if all girls around the world finished secondary education.
The NGO said "child marriage is an extreme violation of children’s rights and a serious form of child abuse. It robs girls of their agency, their childhood, their wellbeing, and their potential. Being married too young forces girls into physical and emotional relationships they are not ready for, that they have not chosen, and that they have little control over."
Adding that "it is an act of gender-based violence that isolates girls and exposes them to physical, sexual and emotional abuse", as well as exposing them to the risks associated with early pregnancy and childbirth.
The report was released today, the International Day of the Girl.
Today, around one in five women and girls in the world were married as children. In South Asia, 44% of women and girls were married before turning 18, and in some sub-Saharan African countries, national averages are over 65%, with Niger having the highest rates of child marriage in the world.
Save the Children said that many of the girls are likely to have grown up in the poorest of households and that for change to happen, education, and economic growth, amongst other factors, are key.
“A toxic combination of poverty and gender discrimination means many families come to the conclusion their daughters are better off becoming wives and mothers than with getting an education,” said Carolyn Miles, president & CEO of Save the Children.
However, a universal education could prevent child marriage, but that target is a long way off. Based on current trends, universal high school completion will not be achieved before 2084 – more than 50 years off target.
In 2015, the global community committed to ending child marriage by 2030. But the report stated that progress is not being made fast enough and the charity is calling on governments to increase its efforts to develop and implement action plans, which must incorporate a focus on education.