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Child marriage around the world:

Ethiopia

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2016 % Married by 15
16%
UNICEF 2016 % Married by 18
41%
International Ranking*

14

* References

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old.

* According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2016.

Photo credit: Ashenafi Tibebe | Girls Not Brides

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2016 % Married by 15
16%
UNICEF 2016 % Married by 18
41%
International Ranking*

14

* References

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old.

* According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2016.

In Ethiopia, two in every five girls are married before their 18th birthday and nearly one in five girls marries before the age of 15.

Prevalence rates vary greatly by region, and are often higher than national figures. The Amhara region has the highest rate of child marriage with nearly 45% of girls married before 18.

Drivers

Child marriage remains a deeply rooted tradition in Ethiopian communities. Customs such as marriage by abduction and forced unions between cousins (abusuma) perpetuate the practice.

In addition, 80% of Ethiopian women have experienced female genital mutilation/cutting, and more than half of these circumcisions occur before a girl’s first birthday – revealing ingrained patriarchal ideals of sexuality and the role of girls and women as primarily mothers and wives.

Child marriage is perpetuated by poverty, a lack of access to education and an absence of economic opportunities. In Ethiopia, girls who are married before the age of 15 are more likely to be illiterate and less likely to be enrolled in school. Only 12% of married girls aged 15-19 are enrolled in school compared to 60% of unmarried girls.

Legal age of marriage

The legal age of marriage in Ethiopia is 18 years for both girls and boys, but these laws are not always enforced.

Ethiopia’s Criminal Code outlines special provisions to punish the perpetrators of early marriage. However, Ethiopia has no functional national or regional system to register births, deaths, marriages, and divorce, making it difficult for authorities to prove a girl is underage.

Initiatives to address child marriage

Ethiopia launched a National Strategy and Action on Harmful Traditional Practices against Women and Children in 2013, which aims to tackle female genital mutilation/cutting as well as child marriage. The national strategy expired in 2015 and is now under revision.

Commitments to end child marriage

At the Girl Summit in July 2014, the Government of Ethiopia committed to end child marriage and FGM/C by 2025. A follow-up Ethiopian Girl Summit was held in June 2015 to discuss implementation of the strategy and commitments made.

UNICEF-UNFPA Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage

EThiopia is a focus country of the UNICEF-UNFPA Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage, a multi-donor, mutli-stakeholder programme working across 12 countries over four years.

Sources
  • Girls Not BridesFact sheet: Ethiopia’s national strategy and action plan on harmful traditional practices, 2015
  • UNICEF, State of the World’s Children, 2016
  • UNFPA, Ethiopia: Child marriage country profile, 2012
  • Central Statistical Authority (Ethiopia) and ORC Macro, Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey 2000
  • Margot M. Kane, Ethiopia: Creating Partnerships to Prevent Early Marriage in the Amhara Region, 2006
  • USAID, Child Marriage: Education and Law Deter Early Marriages in Ethiopia 2008