News / Africa

Human Rights Watch Pushes Malawi to End Early Marriages

FILE - An aisle of girls at Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) run by the Peace Corps, in Lilongwe, Malawi.
FILE - An aisle of girls at Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) run by the Peace Corps, in Lilongwe, Malawi.
Lameck Masina
Human Rights Watch is appealing to Malawi's government to address what it calls “widespread child and forced marriage” in the country. The global rights watchdog says Malawi needs to set a lawful minimum marriage age to protect girls from abuse.  Government officials claims efforts are already underway to address that problem. 
 
Government statistics show that half of the girls in Malawi will marry by their 18th birthday; some will be forced to marry when they are as young as 9 or 10 years old. This is attributed to factors that include pressure from family members, pregnancy, or poverty.
 
The statistics also show that between 2010 and 2013, nearly 30,000 girls in primary school and 4,000 girls in secondary school dropped out due to early marriage. 
 
During the same period, another 14,000 primary school girls and 5,000 secondary school girls dropped out because they were pregnant - contributing to the already high illiteracy rate for women, which is currently at 57 percent.
 
In its report, Human Rights Watch asks President Joyce Banda’s administration to support efforts that would help curb early child marriages.
 
“The government needs to set clear minimum marriage age and it has that opportunity because in 2006 it developed the Marriage, Divorce, and Family Relations Bill which it called the Marriage Bill. But eight years down the line it remains a bill and this is not a good sign that the government is committed to ending child marriage and protecting girls from abuses they face as a result of child marriage,” said Agnes Odhiambo, the Africa women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.
 
Odhiambo said child marriage exposes girls to domestic and sexual violence.
 
Health workers say early pregnancy can lead girls to suffer from obstetric fistula, anemia and other complications that can cause the death of the baby or a mother.
 
The principal secretary of the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Welfare, Mary Shawa, told VOA that as the government awaits passage of the marriage law, it has engaged in other efforts to end early marriages.
 
“We are working with the chiefs to make sure that they develop bylaws in their own areas prohibiting child marriages and child pregnancies. The chiefs are going to provide penalties,” said Shawa.
 
Malawi's senior tribal chief, Chief Chitera, is among traditional leaders who have introduced bylaws against early marriages. She told VOA that the bylaws penalize any traditional leader or parent who authorizes the marriage of a girl younger than 21 years of age.
 
“The chiefs are penalized by paying seven goats to me. Parents who force their children into marriage would be fined to pay three chickens to their village headman and a goat to me, the ‘traditional authority,'” explained Chitera.
 
Chitera said there have been no cases of child marriage since the adoption of the bylaws in 2012.
 
The existing marriage law in Malawi allows girls to marry as early as 15 years, provided they have parental consent.
 
The revised marriage bill would put the minimum of 18 years as a marriage age, which Odhiambo of Human Rights Watch says conforms to international standards.

You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid