Photo credit: Kanishka Afshari | FCO/DFID
Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)
Since the end of Taliban rule in Afghanistan in 2001, there has been limited progress for women and girls’ rights. Afghanistan continues to rank as one of the most dangerous places in the world for women to live. Women and girls face endemic violence and a range of human rights violations including child marriage.
Poverty, strong patriarchal values and poor access to education are behind Afghanistan’s high child marriage rates
Cultural practices such as bride price, child engagements (where children are engaged before birth), exchange marriages (between girls from two separate families) and giving girls in baad (to solve a communal dispute), contribute to the high prevalence of child marriage and low value assigned to girls in Afghan society. Child marriage has also been linked to the trafficking of girls.
Legal age of marriage
The legal age of marriage is 16 years for women and 18 years for men under the Afghan Civil Code. However, the father of a girl or competent court can ‘consent’ to the marriage of a girl who is 15 years in extenuating circumstances.
The 2009 Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW) Law criminalises child marriage, but calls for the government to properly enforce this law continue.
National action plan
On 19 April 2017, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Ministry of Information and Culture launched a “National Action Plan To Eliminate Early and Child Marriage”. The action plan was developed in partnership with UNFPA Afghanistan and after several consultations with the public and private sectors, and representatives of the international community.
Afghanistan is a member of the South Asian Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC), which adopted a regional action plan to end child marriage. The regional action plan is to be implemented in 2015 – 2018. Find out more.
Representatives of the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), including Afghanistan, asserted the Kathmandu Call to Action to End Child Marriage in Asia in 2014. As part of its commitment, Afghanistan will ensure access to legal remedies for child brides and establish a uniform minimum legal age of marriage of 18.
Afghanistan supported the inclusion of a specific target to end child marriage in the Global Goals for Sustainable Development under Goal 5 on gender equality.
Afghanistan committed during its 2009 Universal Periodic Review to take effective measures to address child marriage.
Members In Afghanistan
- Afghan Women Skills Development Centre
- Aid Afghanistan for Education (AAE)
- Civil Society and Human Rights Network (CSHRN)
- Cooperation for Peace and Development
- Humanitarian Assistance for the Women and Children of Afghanistan (HAWCA)
- Research Institute for Women, Peace and Security Afghanistan
- Women & Peace Studies Organization (WPSO)
- Women for Afghan Women (WAW)
- ICRW, Child Marriage in Southern Asia: Policy Options for Action, 2012
- UNAMA, OHCHR, Harmful Traditional Practices and Implementation of the Law on Elimination of Violence against Women in Afghanistan, 2010
- Afghanistan National Report submitted to the Human Rights Council pursuant to its Universal Periodic Review, 2009 (A/HRC/WG.6/5/AFG/1)
- SAARC, Kathmandu Call for Action to End Child Marriage in South Asia, 2014
- UNICEF, State of the World’s Children, 2016