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Cameroon

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
10%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
31%

* 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: ALVF

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
10%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
31%

* 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?

31% of girls in Cameroon are married before their 18th birthday and 10% are married before the age of 15.

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

Child marriage is most common in Adamaoua province and Extrême-Nord.

Are there country-specific drivers of child marriage in this country?

Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that girls are somehow inferior to boys. In Cameroon, child marriage is also driven by:

  • Poverty: Girls from Cameroon’s poorest households are almost five times more likely to marry before the age of 18 than girls from the richest households. Bride price – whereby a girl’s family receives payment for her marriage – is still widely practised there.
  • Level of education: More than half of uneducated girls are currently married compared to one in ten of secondary educated girls, and almost none of those with higher education. In addition, according to UNICEF, by the end of 2019 there were 855,000 children out of school in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon due to instability. This puts girls at an increased risk of child marriage and early pregnancy.
  • Harmful traditional practices: Marriage is predominantly arrange by the fathers, influenced by religious and community leaders.
  • Gender norms and traditional attitudes: Marriage is seen as a girl’s life purpose, so much that in a 2015 study, girls from certain parts of Cameroon reported being portrayed as infertile, prostitutes or witches for not being married. High value is placed on virginity, with some cultural practices such as fulani teaching people that marriage will bring more gifts if a girl is a virgin. Some people feel that a girl should be living with her husband when she has her first menstruation. In a 2014 study, 41% of respondents felt that child marriage is directly driven by a belief that women are “goods”.

Humanitarian settings can encompass a wide range of situations before, during, and after natural disasters, conflicts, and epidemics. They 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, often in times of crisis, families see child marriage as a way to cope with greater economic hardship and to protect girls from increased violence. In the case of Cameroon, the humanitarian situation is increasingly fragile. Since 2017, tensions in the Northwest and Southwest regions have escalated, with recent terrorist attacks by Boko Haram in the Far North of Cameroon. Violence has driven more than 730,000 people out of their homes. In addition, the country hosts more than 400,000 refugees from Nigeria and the Central African Republic.

  • Sexual violence: Plan International reported in 2018 that adolescent girls in communities most affected by the conflict in the Far North are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence, kidnapping and forced marriage perpetrated by armed groups. At the same time, some parents are marrying off their daughters early due to the perception that marriage acts as a protective mechanism against the physical threat posed by armed groups.

What has this country committed to?

Cameroon 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 mentioned that ending harmful practices, such as child marriage, early or forced marriage and female genital mutilation, is part of the country’s plan of emergence called Cameroun Vision 2035.

Cameroon signed a joint statement at the 2014 Human Rights Council calling for a resolution on child marriage.

Cameroon ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1993, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1994, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

In 2017, the UN Child Rights Committee urged Cameroon to take all necessary measures to eliminate the practice of child marriage, including by finalising the revision of the Civil Code and establishing the minimum age for marriage as 18 for both girls and boys.

During its 2013 Universal Periodic Review, Cameroon agreed to intensify awareness-raising campaigns for local authorities, families, traditional and religious leaders and the general population in order to effectively fight against child marriage. During its 2018 Universal Periodic Review, Cameroon agreed to examine recommendations to strengthen the implementation of legislation and policies aimed at ending harmful traditional practices, in particular child, early and forced marriage.

In November 2016 Cameroon launched the African Union Campaign to end child marriage in Africa.

 

In 1997 Cameroon ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, including Article 21 regarding the prohibition of child marriage. In 2012 Cameroon 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.

Cameroon is one of the countries where the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)/DREAMS Initiative is working to reduce rates of HIV among adolescent girls and young women.

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

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

In 2018, Cameroon reported that a multi-sectoral platform for actors engaged in combating violence and harmful cultural practices such child marriage had been created, and a National Family Policy Paper, which presumably would include measures to combat early and forced marriages, was in the process of being drafted.

In addition, Cameroon has reported efforts to increase the school enrolment rate for girls through awareness campaigns and the provision of incentives, among others, with a view to combating gender-based violence in schools and early or forced marriage.

UNFPA is working with the government to create call centres where people can report child marriage cases.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

Legal changes to Section 356 of the Penal Code in 2016 raised the minimum age of marriage from 15 years to 18 years for girls and boys.

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, Cameroon: Victims of Boko Haram attacks feel abandoned in the Far North, [website], 2019, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/12/cameroon-victims-of-boko-haram-attacks-feel-abandoned-in-the-far-north/ (accessed February 2020).

Association to Combat Violence against Women-Extreme North (ALVF-EN), Child, Early, And Forced Marriage In Cameroon: Research Findings, [undated], https://iwhc.org/resources/child-early-and-forced-marriage-in-cameroon-research-findings/ (accessed January 2020).

Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations on the combined third to fifth periodic reports of Cameroon, CRC/C/CMR/CO/3-5, 2017, p. 4 and 7, https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CRC%2fC%2fCMR%2fCO%2f3-5&Lang=en (accessed February 2020).

European Commission, Cameroon, [website], 2020, https://ec.europa.eu/echo/where/africa/cameroon_en (accessed February 2020).

Global Partnership for Education, Cameroon, [website], https://www.globalpartnership.org/where-we-work/cameroon (accessed January 2020).

Institut National de la Statistique et UNICEF, Enquête par grappes à indicateurs multiples (MICS) 2014 Cameroun, 2015, https://mics-surveys-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/MICS5/West%20and%20Central%20Africa/Cameroon/2014/Final/Cameroon%202014%20MICS_French.pdf (accessed February 2020).

International Center for Research on Women, Imagining a Future Free of Child Marriage in Cameroon,[website], 2016, https://www.icrw.org/what-will-a-future-free-of-child-marriage-look-like-for-girls-in-cameroon/ (accessed February 2020).

Les Mariages précoces et forcés au Cameroun : État de la question et mise en perspective, https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Les-Mariages-précoces-et-forcés-au-Cameroun-ALVF-and-IWHC.pdf (accessed January 2020).

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Joint statement on child, early and forced marriage, HRC 27, Agenda Item 3, [website], 2014, http://fngeneve.um.dk/en/aboutus/statements/newsdisplaypage/?newsid=6371ad93-8fb0-4c35-b186-820fa996d379 (accessed February 2020).

Plan International, Adolescent Girls In Crisis: Voices From The Lake Chad Basin, 2018, https://plan-international.org/publications/adolescent-girls-crisis-lake-chad-basin (accessed February 2020).

Republique du Cameroun, Cameroun Vision 2035, , 2009, https://www.undp.org/content/dam/cameroon/docs-one-un-cameroun/2017/vision_cameroun_2035%20(1).pdf (accessed February 2020).

U.S. Department of State, United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, [website], 2019, https://www.state.gov/where-we-work-pepfar/ (accessed January 2020).

UN General Assembly, National report submitted in accordance with paragraph 5 of the annex to resolution 16/21 of the Human Rights Council, 2018, p. 10-12, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/CMIndex.aspx (accessed February 2020).

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Cameroon, 2013, p.22, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/CMIndex.aspx (accessed February 2020).

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Cameroon, 2018, p. 20-21, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/CMIndex.aspx (accessed February 2020).

UNFPA, New rules to help end child marriage in Cameroon, [website], 2016, https://www.unfpa.org/news/new-rules-help-end-child-marriage-cameroon (accessed February 2020).

UNICEF, More than 855,000 children remain out of school in North-West and South-West Cameroon, [website], 2019, https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/more-855000-children-remain-out-school-north-west-and-south-west-cameroon (accessed February 2020).

United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg5 (accessed February 2020).

* 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)

Members In Cameroon