For every ten women aged 20-24 in Sub-Saharan Africa, four are married before the age of 18.
In countries with high levels of child marriage, there are high rates of adolescent births and maternal deaths. More than half of the world’s maternal deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, and complications in pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death among adolescent girls in developing countries.
What can be done to change these startling statistics? We must enact legislation that explicitly prohibits harmful practices such as child marriage!
This legislation must:
- Ensure that 18 is the minimum age of marriage;
- Ensure that the legal age of marriage applies to all marriages, including customary and religious ones;
- Guarantee the full and free consent of the marrying parties; and
- Any legal loopholes regarding full and free consent and other issues that allow for exceptions must be removed.
Today, the total number of girls married before the age of 18 reaches 12 million per year. In order to bring an end to the practice by 2030, as outlined in SDG 5 (Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls), progress must accelerate – any reformed marriage legislation should be accompanied by policies and action to actually end this and other harmful practices for all women and girls.