Indicator Name, Target and Goal

Indicator 5.3.1: Proportion of women aged 20-24 years who were first married or in a union before age 15 and before age 18

Target 5.3: Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Definition and Rationale

This indicator is defined as the percentage of women aged 20-24 years who were first married or in a union before age 15 and before age 18. 


Unions refers to both formal (i.e. marriage) and informal cohabiting unions. 

-Informal union refers to couples living together as if married, but for which there has been no civil or religious ceremony (cohabitation). 

Rationale and Interpretation:

Marriage before the age of 18 is a fundamental violation of human rights. Child marriages often compromises a girl’s development by resulting in early pregnancy and social isolation, interrupting her schooling, limiting her opportunities for career and vocational advancement and placing her at an increased risk of intimate partner violence. Child marriage is a direct manifestation of gender inequality and against several international conventions and agreements. 

The monitoring of this indicator over time would help observe change and assess the effectiveness of policy interventions to eliminate this harmful practice.

Data Sources and Collection Method

This data is collected through national censuses or national household surveys which have modules linked to marital status and age at first union of men and women of reproductive age. These surveys are generally conducted by the ministries of health or national statistical offices. The most commonly available sources of nationally representative and internationally-comparable data are the UNICEF-supported MICS and the USAID-supported DHS. 

Method of Computation and Other Methodological Considerations

Computation Method:

The percentage of women aged 20-24 years who were married or in a union (PCM) before the age a can be calculated as:


Wa is the number of women aged 20-24 years who were first married or in union before age 15 (or before age 18); and

WTotal is the total number of women aged 20-24 years. 

Comments and limitations:

The modules used to collect information on marital status and age at first union among women and men of reproductive age (15-49 years) have been fully harmonized between the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) and Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS).

Proxy, alternative and additional indicators: N/A

Data Disaggregation

This indicator can be disaggregated by age, income, place of residence, geographic location, education and ethnicity (for some countries).


Official SDG Metadata URL  

Internationally agreed methodology and guideline URL

Other references:
UNICEF Briefing Notes on SDG Indicators:

UNICEF. Briefing notes on SDG global indicators related to children. Available at 

Additional References:
UNICEF. Child Marriage. New York. Available at: 

Country examples

International Organization(s) for Global Monitoring

This document was prepared based on inputs from United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

For focal point information for this indicator, please visit

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