The bill, which set the minimum age for marriage at 18, eliminates a loophole in Mozambican family law which made it possible for children to marry at 16 with the consent of their parents.
Plan International played an integral role in drafting the bill, working alongside Mozambique’s national and local governments, other civil society organisations, community leaders, boys and girls, parents and religious leaders.
A historic commitment
“This law change represents a historic commitment by the Mozambican government to uphold the rights of girls,” said Anne Hoff, Country Director of Plan International Mozambique.
“Mozambique has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, with almost half of girls marrying before 18, and more than one in 10 married before their 15th birthday.
“If a girl is married before the age of 18, she is more likely to drop out of school, to become a child mother, to die during pregnancy or childbirth, and to be trapped in a lifetime of poverty.”
“This law helps pave the way for millions of girls who would have been robbed of their childhoods, to continue their education and reach their potential. This could lift a generation of young women out of poverty.”
Bill passed unanimously
The bill unanimously passed its second and final reading in the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, in July and will become law as soon as it has been signed off by President Filipe Nyusi.
The campaign to put an end to child marriage in Mozambique has been gaining traction for some time, with youth supported by Plan International leading the charge.
Young people gathered and presented evidence on the harms of child marriage to provincial governments in Inhambane and Nampula, while Plan International’s “pinkification” campaign in the cities of Maputo, Maxixe and Inhambane saw billboards, murals and buses painted pink to urge community members to “say no to child marriage”.
Law must be enforced
Plan International urges the Mozambican government not to delay in enacting the proposed law and to ensure that it is properly enforced.
“Girls have waited long enough for this grave violation of their human rights to end,” said Ms Hoff. “The new law must come into force as soon as possible.”
Plan International also urges the Mozambican government to accompany the strengthened legislation with policies and programmes which address the root causes of child marriage and tackle gender inequality and harmful social attitudes.
“A strong legal framework on child marriage is essential if the practice is to be eradicated, but it is clear from the evidence that it must be combined with other measures to ensure girls and young women can claim their right to choose if and when they get married,” says Ms Hoff.
Almost half (48%) of women in Mozambique aged 20–24 were first married or in a union before the age of 18, and 14% before the age of 15 (DHS, 2011).