Malawi has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, with 1 in 2 girls married by the age of 18.
A key challenge to eradicating child marriage in Malawi is entrenched attitudes that accept the practice. Child marriage is also closely linked to poverty, as often in rural areas girls will be married off very young to improve a family’s financial status. In northern Malawi, kupimbira, or giving a young daughter in marriage as repayment for a debt, is practiced.
Conflicting legislation makes the minimum age of marriage ambiguous in Malawi. Early in 2015, and following advocacy efforts by civil society, the parliament adopted the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Bill, raising the minimum age of marriage to 18.
However, the new provisions cannot overwrite the Constitution, which stipulates that girls and boys ages 15 to 18 may marry with parental consent. The constitution also does not specifically prohibit the marriage of children under 15, but merely directs the government to “discourage” them.
* 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 2015.