Ethiopia has one of the most severe crises of child marriage in the world today. The legal age of marriage is 18 for both males and females, 16 but it is widely ignored. Ethiopia is the site of some of the most abusive marital practices, such as marriage by abduction and forced unions between cousins (abusuma).
A high prevalence of child marriage exists in Ethiopia. Nationwide, 19 percent of girls were married by age 15, and about half of girls were married by age 18. Child marriage is extremely prevalent in some regions; in Amhara, 50 percent of girls were married by age 15, and 80 percent were married by age 18.
Large spousal age differences are common and may limit married girls’ autonomy and decision-making ability. The younger a bride is, the greater the age difference between her and her spouse. In Ethiopia, the mean age difference between spouses is 10.1 years if the wife marries before age 15 compared to 8.6 years if the wife marries at or after age 20.
First births have elevated risks. The youngest first-time mothers and their children are especially vulnerable to poor health outcomes
Among married girls aged 15–19 in Ethiopia, almost half have already given birth. The vast majority of births occurring to girls before age 18 are first births (77 percent), and nearly all of these first births occur within marriage (96 percent).