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Burkina Faso

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
10%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
52%
International Ranking*

7

* 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 (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)

Photo credit: Jessica Lea | DFID

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
10%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
52%
International Ranking*

7

* 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 (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)

What's the child marriage rate? How big of an issue is child marriage?

According to the latest available DHS data from 2010, 52% of girls in Burkina Faso are married before their 18th birthday and 10% are married before the age of 15.

Burkina Faso has the seventh highest prevalence of child marriage globally.

4% of boys in Burkina Faso are married before the age of 18.

According to a 2015 UNICEF and ICRW study, the Sahel region has the highest rate of child marriage (76%), followed by Est (72%). There are little variations in child marriage rates among Burkina Faso’s main ethnic groups.

Nationally child marriage has remained at the same level in Burkina Faso over the past three decades, and has even intensified in some regions, possibly due to increasing instability.

A 2017 World Bank/ICRW study estimated that ending child marriage in Burkina Faso could see a 7.45% rise in earnings and productivity for Burkinese women who married early, and an additional USD 178 million in earnings and productivity for the country.

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.

In Burkina Faso, child marriage is also driven by:

  • Level of education: Girls with no education marry at a younger age than those who have completed secondary school or higher.
  • Poverty: Girls living in Burkina Faso’s poorest households have a lower median age of first marriage than those in the richest households.
  • Harmful traditional practices: Litho involves girls being exchanged and married off between families. Sometimes such agreements take place as early as the birth of the girl. Pog-lenga is still practiced among some Mossi and Bissa ethnic groups, and involves brides bringing nieces to wedding ceremonies as extra girls to be married, either to the groom or a family member or friend.
  • Violence against girls: Some girls in Burkina Faso are threatened with violence or banishment if they do not accept a marriage. Some feel pressured to marry because of financial agreements made between families. The subsequent guilt and potential loss of money and social status coerces many girls into agreeing to marry. Girls in the Sahel region are particularly at risk of sexual and gender-based violence due to increasing instability.

Humanitarian situation and conflict: The humanitarian situation is deteriorating quickly in Burkina Faso and there has been massive population displacements. The country has in recent years been gripped by escalating violence that has spread across some West and Central African countries. Clashes between government forces and armed groups linked to ISIL and al-Qaeda compromised the education and health systems, and forced thousands to flee their homes. This has led to increased rates of school dropouts and violence against women and girls, including child marriage. Humanitarian settings exacerbate poverty, insecurity, and lack of access to services such as education, factors which all drive child marriage. While gender inequality is a root cause of child marriage in both stable and crisis contexts, available evidence shows that in times of crisis, families see child marriage as a way to cope with greater economic hardship and to protect girls from increased violence. More research is needed to understand and monitor the impact on child marriage of the conflict and humanitarian situation in Burkina Faso.

What has this country committed to?

Burkina Faso 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 2019 High Level Political Forum, the government did not provide an update on progress towards this target, but mentioned projects and efforts to end child and forced marriage in Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso co-sponsored the 2013, 2014 and 2018 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, Burkina Faso signed a joint statement at the Human Rights Council calling for a resolution on child marriage.

Burkina Faso ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1987, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

In 2017 the CEDAW Committee recommended that Burkina Faso amend the Personal and Family Code to prohibit forced cohabitation and traditional weddings, and allocate sufficient resources for the implementation of the strategy to combat child marriage. The Committee also expressed concerns that refugee women and girls in the country are at an increased risk of early and forced marriage.

During its 2013 Universal Periodic Review, Burkina Faso supported recommendations to increase the minimum legal age for marriage to 18 years and to explicitly prohibit child marriage. During its 2018 Universal Periodic Review, Burkina Faso supported recommendations to fast-track the implementation of the national strategy on ending child marriage for the period 2016–2025, and amend the Individuals and Family Code to set 18 years as the minimum age of marriage for both boys and girls.

In 2015 Burkina Faso launched the African Union Campaign to end child marriage in Africa.

In 1992 Burkina Faso ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, including Article 21 regarding the prohibition of child marriage.

In 2006 Burkina Faso ratified the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, including Article 6 which sets the minimum age for marriage as 18.

As a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in 2017 Burkina Faso adopted the Strategic Framework for Strengthening National Child Protection Systems under which protecting children from marriage is a priority. In June 2019, the ECOWAS Heads of State endorsed the ECOWAS Child Policy and Strategic Action Plan and the 2019-2030 Roadmap on prevention and response to child marriage.

In addition, in July 2019, the ECOWAS First Ladies signed “The Niamey Declaration: Call to End Child Marriage and to promote the Education and empowerment of Girls”, calling Member States to initiate legislative, institutional and budgetary reforms to implement the Roadmap.

At the London Girl Summit in July 2014, the government signed a charter committing to end child marriage by 2020. Burkina Faso is one of 11 countries working to create child marriage-free communities by 2020 as part of the Her Choice Alliance.

Burkina Faso is a partner country of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).

What is the government doing to address this at the national level?

Burkina Faso is a focus country of the UNICEF-UNFPA Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage, a multi-donor, multi-stakeholder programme working across 12 countries over four years. As part of the UNICEF-UNFPA Global Programme, in 2018 more than 58,000 girls received life skills training that included the means to become agents of change against child marriage, and almost 210,000 individuals participated in regular community dialogues on children’s and women’s rights which included discussion on the benefits of delaying marriage.

With support from the Global Programme, the Government launched a national campaign for the acceleration of progress to end child marriage Ne m’appelez pas Madame (“Don’t call me Mrs”) in 2018. The campaign includes a video clip featuring 1,000 adolescent girls speaking up for the elimination of child marriage together with two internationally known Burkinabè artists.

In 2015 the government adopted the National Strategy for the Prevention and Elimination of Child Marriage (2016-2025) and two subsequent action plans (2016-2018 and 2019-2021), being the first country in West and Central Africa to do so.

The strategy was developed with many stakeholders including several line ministries, UN agencies, religious and traditional leaders, the National Coalition to End Child Marriage and citizens from across the country. It has four objectives:

  1. Prevent all forms of child marriage
  2. Support victims of child marriage
  3. Strengthen national efforts to end the practice
  4. Coordinate, monitor and evaluate the implementation of the strategy.

In 2016, a Multisector Platform for the Prevention and Elimination of Child Marriage was established to support the implementation of the National Strategy to End Child Marriage.

In 2017, the First Lady of Burkina Faso, Mrs. Sika Kaboré, hosted a national high-level panel on child marriage with ministers. In the same year, she indicated her support to the National Coalition to End Child Marriage (CONAMEB) in advocating to the National Assembly to raise the legal age of marriage to 18 for boys and girls. The Code des Personnes et de la Famille setting the minimum age of marriage is now under review by the Ministry of Justice before it needs to be approved by the National Assembly.

Burkina Faso adopted the Operation Strategy for Child Protection Humanitarian Action 2019–2021 integrating humanitarian and development planning as an essential step towards longer-term response. The strategy outlines five mutually reinforcing change strategies and aims to achieve that girls and boys, particularly the most vulnerable, affected by a humanitarian crisis, are protected from all forms of violence, abuse, exploitation and harmful practices, and benefit from equitable child protection services. 

From 2019, the government of Burkina Faso committed to provide free family planning services, including contraceptives and medical consultations. The lack of information and access to contraception has been found to be closely related to child marriage in Burkina Faso.

From 2008-2010 the Ministry of Social Action and National Solidarity implemented the pilot project, “Eliminating early marriage in Burkina Faso: a community protection, empowerment and intervention plan” in five regions, enabling provision of psychosocial assistance to 332 survivors and the prosecution of nine people.

The World Bank Sahel Women Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD) project launched in 2015 aims to raise the age of marriage and teenage pregnancies with a focus on girls’ education and empowerment, through demand generation and supply of reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health services, promotion of social and behavioural change and strengthening political commitment and policy and project management capacity. The Sukaabe rewle project (to end child marriage), a component of the SWEDD project, aims to address some of the communication gaps around the National Strategy.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

Under the Code des Personnes et de la Famille 1989, the minimum age of marriage is 17 years for girls and 20 years for boys. However girls can marry as young as 15 years and boys at 18 years if it is authorised by civil courts.

In February 2016 the Burkinabé government promised to increase the legal marriage age for girls to 18, which was further supported by statements from the First Lady in 2017. However, it appears that no progress has been made towards implementing the government’s pledge as yet.

In 2018, the Burkina Faso National Assembly adopted a revised Penal Code that penalises all forms of child marriage. The Penal Code includes strengthened provisions to improve the protective environment of girls in schools against abuse and to punish perpetrators, including teachers. However, the new Penal Code does not amend the minimum age of marriage.

Source

African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, [website], 2018, https://www.achpr.org/legalinstruments/detail?id=46 (accessed January 2020).

African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, [website], 2018, https://au.int/en/treaties/protocol-african-charter-human-and-peoples-rights-rights-women-africa (accessed January 2020).

African Union, Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa: Call to Action, 2013, https://au.int/sites/default/files/pages/32905-file-campaign_to_end_child_marriage_in_africa_call_for_action-_english.pdf (accessed February 2020).

Amnesty International, Burkina Faso: Historic day for advancing sexual and reproductive health rights, [website], 2019, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2019/06/burkina-faso-historic-day-for-advancing-sexual-and-reproductive-health-rights/ (accessed February 2020).

Amnesty International, Coerced and Denied: Forced Marriages and Barriers to Contraception in Burkina Faso, 2016, https://www.amnesty.org.uk/files/mbmr_burkina_faso_report_-_26_april.pdf (accessed February 2020).

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ECOWAS, ECOWAS First Ladies affirm Commitment to End Child Marriage and Promote Girl-Child Education in the Region, [website], 2019, https://www.ecowas.int/ecowas-first-ladies-affirm-commitment-to-end-child-marriage-and-promote-girl-child-education-in-the-region/ (accessed January 2020).

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* 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)

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