Document Type


Publication Date



This brief is based on a paper prepared for the WHO/UNFPA/Population Council Technical Consultation on Married Adolescents, held in Geneva, Switzerland, December 9–12, 2003. The consultation brought together experts from the United Nations, donors, and nongovernmental agencies to consider the evidence regarding married adolescent girls’ reproductive health, vulnerability to HIV infection, social and economic disadvantage, and rights. The relationships to major policy initiatives—including safe motherhood, HIV, adolescent sexual and reproductive health, and reproductive rights—were explored, and emerging findings from the still relatively rare programs that are directed at this population were discussed. Despite the program attention and funding that have been devoted to adolescents, early marriage and married adolescents have fallen largely outside of the field’s concern. Comprising the majority of sexually active adolescent girls in developing countries, this large and vulnerable subpopulation has received neither program and policy consideration in the adolescent sexual and reproductive health field, nor special attention from reproductive health and development programs for adult women. While adolescent girls, irrespective of marital status, are vulnerable in many settings and deserve program, policy, and resource support, the purpose of this brief is to describe the distinctive and often disadvantaged situations of married girls and to propose possible future policy and program options.