Africa Must Tackle Problem of Child Marriages

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Forced Marriage

Last Tuesday during the 29th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union Assembly in Ethiopia, continued efforts to end child marriages on the continent were commended.

The summit called on member states to get tough on child marriages by fully implementing the necessary legal instruments, integrate activities and programmes on the girl child in national development frameworks and allocate more money to tackle the problem.  African governments were further called to specify the minimum age of marriage, which is line with the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. The call followed a presentation by the AU Ambassador on Ending Child Marriages, President Edgar Lungu of Zambia, on the progress report on the campaign to end child marriage to the assembly.

The progress report spotlights initiatives and challenges of member countries in the effort to end the practice.   The Campaign to End Child Marriages was launched May 2014 and was primarily directed by African Heads of State.  Since then, it was initiated in 20 African countries that were considered “high prevalence”.

President Lungu explained that the Open Session on Ending Child Marriages at the AU Peace and Security Council increased awareness of how vulnerable children can be in conflict zones.

“Ending child marriages on the continent will lay a solid foundation for the achievement of the bold aspirations of Agenda 2063, which is Africa’s blueprint for socio-economic and structural transformation.”

Meanwhile, the AU Assembly strongly condemned the abduction and forcible marriages of young girls, particularly in conflict situations and committed to prosecute the perpetrators of these vices. As a result, Lungu said the AU was developing a compendium of child marriage laws across the continent as a comprehensive and accessible reference for policy makers, researchers, advocates and other stakeholders.

In 2016 UNICEF stated that child marriages remain a problem in Africa. Worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children, 17 percent of them, or 125 million, live in Africa and 36 percent are in Southern Africa. The causes of child marriages in most cases are  poverty, gender inequity, tradition, insecurity, lack of education, and inadequate legal frameworks.

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