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Leap forward to end child marriage in Africa

8 June 2016
Plan International supports new legislation to help eradicate child marriage in Southern Africa within a generation.

Hilda, 17, Zambia, was married against her wishes and is now divorced
Hilda, 17, Zambia, was married against her wishes and is now divorced

A new model law on eradicating child marriage and protecting children who are already married has been adopted in Southern Africa.

The body uniting parliaments from 14 Southern African states, the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum, agreed the first ever model law on child marriage in the region at a meeting in Swaziland.

The law will help member states to make effective national laws to prevent child marriages and achieve the African Union’s goal to end child marriage in a generation.

7 million child brides

Child marriage affects 70 million girls in the world and East and Southern Africa have 7 million child brides alone.

The model law has been developed in response to this high prevalence of child marriage in Africa, which is largely driven by high poverty levels, gender inequality, traditions, religion and limited educational opportunities for girls. It will provide guidance to parliamentarians, ministries of justice, policymakers, and other stakeholders in Southern African countries as they develop national laws.

Plan International’s 18+ Ending Child Marriage in Southern Africa Programme supports the new law to end child marriage by 2030. Roland Angerer, Plan International Regional Director in the Eastern and Southern Africa, says: “The Model Law will address the most common problem of inconsistencies and gaps in the laws which weaken the sanction mechanisms available to law enforcement agencies across the region.”

Working in partnership

The new model law eliminates several loopholes that make current laws ineffective and unenforceable including those around parental and judicial consent, and conflicts between customary and statuary laws.

The Parliamenary Forum's efforts to develop and adopt a regional law on child marriage has been supported by the United Nations Populations Fund's East and Southern Africa Regional Office, Plan International’s 18+ Ending Child Marriage in Southern Africa Programme, United Nations Development Programme, the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa, the Southern African Litigation Centre and Girls Not Brides.

Learn more about the Because I am a Girl movement to stop early and forced marriages