Girls Not Brides (London)

22 July 2014

Africa: Child Marriage Around the World

The government of Malawi should increase efforts to end widespread child and forced marriage, or risk worsening poverty, illiteracy, and preventable ... ( Resource: Why Malawi Should Tackle Child Marriage Urgently

press release

Child marriage is a truly global problem that cuts across countries, cultures, religions and ethnicities. Child brides can be found in every region in the world, from the Middle East to Latin America, South Asia to Europe.

Top 20 Most Affected

Child marriage: 20 highest-prevalence countries in the world (%)

  1. Niger                              75%
  2. Central African Republic  68%
  3. Chad                              68%
  4. Bangladesh                    65%
  5. Guinea                           63%
  6. Mali                               55%
  7. South Sudan                  52%
  8. Burkina Faso                 52%
  9. Malawi                          50%
  10. Mozambique                 48%
  11. Madagascar                  48%
  12. India                            47%
  13. Eritrea                         47%
  14. Somalia                       45%
  15. Sierra Leone                44%
  16. Zambia                       42%
  17. Nicaragua                   41%
  18. Nepal                         41%
  19. Dominican Republic    41%
  20. Ethiopia                     41%

Niger
Niger has the highest rate of child marriage in the world. Every 3 in 4 girls marry before their 18th birthday. In some areas, the rates are even higher: in the region of Diffa, 89% of girls marry as children.

The link between education and the prevalence of child marriage is particularly evident in Niger: 81% of women aged 20-24 with no education and 63% with only primary education were married or in union at age 18, compared to only 17% of women with secondary education or higher.

If present trends continue, more than 1 million girls born between 2005 and 2010 will be married or in union before they turn 18.

Sources: UNFPA, 2012.

Chad
Chad has the third highest rate of child marriage in the world – 68% of girls are married as children – and, unlike many other countries, the practice is prevalent in both wealthy and less wealthy households.

In a 2013 report on child marriage in west Africa, The Ford Foundation pointed at “cultural tradition, conflict, state fragility and a general bewilderment by parents and communities about what to do with large numbers of children in the face of a failing education system and a stiffed economy” as reasons why the practice persists.

Sources: UNICEF, State of the World’s Children 2014 in Numbers: Every Child Counts, 2014
The Ford Foundation, Mapping child marriage in West Africa, 2013

Malawi
Conflicting legislation makes the minimum age for marriage ambiguous in Malawi. The constitution sets 18 as the minimum age without consent, and persons between 15 and 18 may be married with parental consent. The constitution also maintains that the state is obliged to ‘discourage’ marriages where either party is under the age of 15[i]. This is in conflict with the common law Marriage Act, which states 21 as the minimum age for marriage[ii].

A key challenge to eradicating child marriage in Malawi is entrenched attitudes that accept the practice[iii]. Child marriage is also closely linked to poverty, as often in rural areas girls will be married off very young in order to improve a family’s financial status. In the northern part of Malawi, kupimbira, or giving a young daughter in marriage as repayment for a debt, is practiced[iv].

[i] United Nations Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Sixth periodic report of States parties, Malawi, CEDAW/C/MWI/6, Geneva, 2008, pg.10

[ii] United Nations Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Sixth periodic report of States parties, Malawi, CEDAW/C/MWI/6, Geneva, 2008, pg. 48.

[iii] Women and Law in Southern Africa (2009) p.10

[iv] United Nations Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Sixth periodic report of States parties, Malawi, CEDAW/C/MWI/6, Geneva, 2008, pg. 48.
Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2013). It is based on Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and other national surveys, and refers to the most recent year available during the period 2002-2011.

142 MILLION
If we do nothing, by the end of the decade an estimated 142 million girls will be married as children.

1 in 3 Girls
In the developing world are said to be married before 18.

400 Million
Globally, almost 400 million women aged 20-49 were married before 18.

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