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

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

Ninety percent of homes in one small village were damaged or destroyed as government forces failed to stop a rebel advance More

Pakistan’s 'Last Self-Declared Jew' Attacked, Detained

Argument about the rights of non-Muslims in Pakistan allegedly results in mob beating well-known Jewish Pakistani More

Turkey Cracks Down on Political Dissent, Again

People daring to engage in political dissent ahead of upcoming general elections could find themselves in jail More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobanii
X
Mahmoud Bali
March 06, 2015 8:43 PM
Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobani

Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

In the village of Nikishino, in eastern Ukraine, recent fighting has brought utter devastation. Ninety percent of the houses are damaged or destroyed after government forces tried and failed to stop rebels advancing on the strategically important town of Debaltseve nearby. Patrick Wells reports for VOA from Nikishino.
Video

Video Crime Scenes Re-Created in 3-D Visualization

Police and prosecutors sometimes resort to re-creations of crime scenes in order to better understand the interaction of all participants in complicated cases. A Swiss institute says advanced virtual reality technology can be used for quality re-creations of events at the moment of the crime. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More