'To end forced marriage, we must work with the whole community'

L-R: Yvone Kambiza, Alinafe Naison, Catherine Julio Funsani and Katrina Kampingo, who were underage brides in Malawi.

Story highlights

  • Forced marriage is still a widespread cultural practice
  • It's vital we recognize its social underpinnings, write Oliver Kaplan and Kate Castenson
  • Solutions must engage with parents of both sons and daughters, and with community leaders

Kate Castenson obtained her M.A. in International Human Rights from the Josef Korbel School at the University of Denver, where she was also a research associate with the Human Trafficking Center. Oliver Kaplan is an assistant professor and associate director of the Human Trafficking Center at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. The opinions expressed in this commentary are theirs.

(CNN)With the rise of violent extremist groups such as Boko Haram in Nigeria and ISIS in the Middle East, horrific descriptions of young girls being kidnapped and forced to marry militants have made headlines. But the problem of forced marriage is far more widespread.

As a persistent form of modern day slavery, forced marriage is an embedded cultural practice that is found in a variety of countries. Forced marriage even occurs among immigrant groups in the United States and Europe. Fortunately, new approaches offer hope for putting an end this practice.
    Kate Castenson
    According to the International Center for Research on Women, one third of girls in the developing world marry before age 18, and one in nine are married before the age of 15. Although data is sparse, countries with the highest rates of child marriage include Niger (76%), Central African Republic (68%), Chad (68%), Bangladesh (65%), Mali (55%), Burkina Faso (52%), South Sudan (52%), Guinea (52%), Malawi (50%), Mozambique (48%), India (47%), and Somalia (45%).
    Oliver Kaplan
    As socia