Child Marriages in Africa

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Child Marriage - State-Sanctioned Violence

State-sanctioned violence is/are acts of violence committed by an official state, military or sponsored by a sovereign government outside of the context of a declared war, which target civilians or show a disregard for civilian life in attacking targets—either people or facilities.[1] Child marriage occurs in sub-Saharan Africa and is sustained by the community leaders, religion bases, culture and tradition. The sub-Saharan African government is aware that this issue is on-going, but because it is cultural-based, traditional and deeply religiously-steamed, it is difficult to regulate by the state government. The community leaders, elders, religious leaders and families are responsible for these practices perpetuating.

What is child marriage?
Child marriage is any formal/informal union where one individual or both individuals are under the age of 18 years old. 15 million girls are married before the age of 18 each year.[2]

Where are Cases of Child Marriage Seen?
Child marriage is seen all around the world. It is a global problem that disseminates 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.[3] Child marriage is not only limited to sub-Saharan Africa, it is a worldwide issue. According to Girls not Brides 700 million women today were married off as children, over 125 Million of those women reside in Africa today. In Sub-Saharan Africa 39% of girls are married off before they turn 18 years old. Child marriage is widely spread throughout Africa, almost each country have to face this challenging issue. Some countries like Niger child marriage rate is very high at 76% and some countries like Algeria its very low at 3% so. If child marriage is not put to an end, it is estimated that 1.2 billion women will be married off as children by 2050. 1 in 3 girls are married off before the age 18.

20 Countries With The Highest Rates of Child Marriage Around the World*

1 Niger 76%
2 Central African Republic 68%
3 Chad 68%
4 Mali 55%
5 Bangladesh 52%
6 Burkina Faso 52%
7 Guinea 52%
8 South Sudan 52%
9 Mozambique 48%
10 India 47%
11 Malawi 46%
12 Somalia 45%
13 Nigeria 43%
14 Eritrea 41%
15 Ethiopia 41%
16 Madagascar 41%
17 Nicaragua 41%
18 Uganda 40%
19 Sierra Leone 39%
20 Cameroon 38%
  • Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were first married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2016). 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 2008-2014.[4]

20 Countries With the Highest Absolute Numbers of Child Marriage*

1 India 26,610,000
2 Bangladesh 3,931,000
3 Nigeria 3,306,000
4 Brazil 2,928,000
5 Ethiopia 1,974,000
6 Pakistan 1,875,000
7 Indonesia 1,408,000
8 Mexico 1,282,000
9 Democratic Republic of the Congo 1,274,000
10 Tanzania 887,000
11 Uganda 711,000
12 Philippines 708,000
13 Egypt 681,000
14 Mozambique 611,000
15 Niger 609,000
16 Sudan 605,000
17 Iran 583,000
18 Nepal 523,000
19 Thailand 503,000
20 Kenya 482,000
  • Women aged 20 to 24 years old who were married before they were 18

Source: UNICEF, State of the World's Children, 2016

Why Do Child Marriages Occur?

In cultures, like some present in Africa, where child marriage is prevalent, young girls are the victims of child marriage. Daughters in families where poverty is acute are seen as liabilities, burdens and hindrances to their families. Marrying them off would lessen the load and financial strain placed on their parents. There are multiple reasons why child marriage is allowed in sub-Saharan Africa. These people have strong beliefs in their traditions and culture, so to keep these traditions alive, they continue in practicing child marriage. Traditions and cultures perpetuate child marriage in many communities because people are firm believers of keeping traditions alive. Parents may marry off their daughters in hopes of paying off debts they have incurred. Out of fear for their personal safety, parents may sell off their daughters to settle disputes. Child marriages also occur is to settle social, economic and political alliances between persons. Child marriage occurs in sub-Saharan Africa because of gender inequalities, poverty, lack of education, cultural practices and insecurities.

Child marriage is the marrying off of young girls before they are the age of 18. Although this topic focused on sub-Saharan Africa, this is a worldwide issue that occur in each region of the globe.