What's the child marriage rate? How big of an issue is child marriage?
There is no publicly available government data on child marriage in Belgium.
In 2016, Belgium was named one of the top 10 best countries to be a girl by Save the Children. The index uses a range of indicators, including child marriage, lower secondary school completion, female political participation, adolescent fertility and maternal mortality.
Are there country-specific drivers of child marriage in this country?
Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that women and girls are somehow inferior to men and boys.
There is very limited information on child marriage in Belgium.
What has this country committed to?
Belgium has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. During its Voluntary National Review at the 2017 High Level Political Forum, the government highlighted that a multi-stakeholder platform for international health has been developed, with an accessible e-tutorial covering a range of topics such as child marriage.
Belgium co-sponsored the 2017 Human Rights Council resolution recognising the need to address child, early and forced marriage in humanitarian contexts, and the 2015 Human Rights Council resolution to end child, early and forced marriage, recognising that it is a violation of human rights.
Belgium co-sponsored the 2013 and 2014 UN General Assembly resolutions on child, early and forced marriage, and the 2013 Human Rights Council resolution on child, early and forced marriage. In 2014, Belgium signed a joint statement at the Human Rights Council calling for a resolution on child marriage.
Belgium ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1985, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.
What is the government doing to address this at the national level?
In 2017, the Minister of Development Cooperation announced €1.17 million to support UNICEF in tackling child marriage in Benin. The programme, Lutte contre le mariage des enfants au Benin, aims to give children and young people better access to justice and better protection from violence and sexual exploitation.
In 2015, Belgian Parliament unanimously adopted a resolution calling for more efforts to help end child, early, and forced marriage. The resolution called on the government to address child marriage as a priority in its development cooperation policy.
What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?
The minimum age of marriage in Belgium is 18 years. Under the Civil Code 2001, in exceptional cases, a judge may allow marriage prior to the age of 18, although in such instances the minors will need the consent of their parents.
Girl Summit 2014, The Girl Summit Charter on Ending FGM and Child, Early and Forced Marriage, [website], 2015, (accessed February 2018)
Government of Belgium, Pathways to Sustainable Development, First Belgian National Voluntary Review on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda, 2017, (accessed March 2018)
Kingdom of Belgium, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Belgium is joining forces with UNICEF and UNFPA in Benin to tackle child marriage and sexual exploitation, 2017, (accessed March 2018)
Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister De Croo launches e-tutorial Body and Rights, 2017, (accessed May 2018)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Joint statement on child, early and forced marriage, HRC 27, Agenda Item 3, [website], 2014, (accessed April 2018)
Save the Children, Which are the best and worst countries to be a girl?, [website], 2016, (accessed March 2018)
United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, (accessed February 2018)
* 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)