Malawi outlaws child marriage

family life

The southern African country of Malawi has voted to outlaw child marriage.

Malawi, bordered by Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia, is one of the poorest in the world and also has one of the world’s highest rates of child marriage. Estimates of the number of girls who end up as child brides range as high as 50 per cent, while around one in eight are married by 15.

According to traditional Malawian culture, early unions promote fertility, a folk belief that threatens the health and welfare of girls pushed into premature marriage.

But the Malawian parliament has now unanimously voted in new legislation which will ban the practice when President Peter Mutharika signs the bill into law over the next few weeks.

Jessie Kabwila of the Malawi Congress Party helped push the legislation through Parliament. She told Reuters:

“This law is very important because of the number of girls who drop out of school because they are going to get married, and because of the high numbers of girls who are dying when they are giving birth.”

The new law meant that Malawi “will for the first time clearly articulate that we are saying ‘No’ to child marriage.”

But campaigners warned that child marriages would still be attractive to poor families across the country because they usually receive a valuable dowry payment and a match would also mean one fewer mouth to feed. Far-reaching efforts to tackle poverty in the country were therefore essential they said.

Photo of Lake Malawi by Stefan Kraft via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons licence

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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