Malawi should increase efforts to end widespread child marriage, or risk worsening poverty, illiteracy, and preventable maternal deaths, warned Human Rights Watch in a new report.
“I’ve never experienced happiness: Child marriage in Malawi” documents how child marriage prevents girls and women from participating in all spheres of life in Malawi, a country where 1 in 2 girls is married before age 18.
Child marriage is a harmful practice that violates girls’ rights to health, to education , to be free from violence, and to choose if, when, and whom to marry.
The report outlines concrete measures for Malawi’s former President, Joyce Banda, and the government to protect girls from child marriage including:
- Enact the Marriage, Divorce, and Family Relations Bill, which set the legal minimum age of marriage at 18;
- Develop a comprehensive national action plan to prevent and address the consequences of child marriage;
- Develop a national policy on adolescent reproductive health;
- Train law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute cases of violence against women, including child marriage
- Support non-governmental organisations working on violence against women and girls, including child marriage
- Support shelters for survivors of gender-based violence
Girls who marry as children see their rights to health, to education, to be free from violence, and to choose violated. Over 80 women and girls shared their experiences with Human Rights Watch.