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Cote d’Ivoire

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
7%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
27%

* 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: Ky Chung | United Nations

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
7%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
27%

* 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?

27% of girls in Côte d’Ivoire are married before the age of 18 and 7% are married before the age of 15.

4% of boys in Côte d’Ivoire are married before the age of 18.

Child marriage is most prevalent in the North (where 52% of women aged 20-49 were married before the age of 18) and the North West (48%), and among the Gur and Autre Ivoirien ethnic groups.

Child marriage may be more prevalent than current estimates indicate. Only half of all births are registered in Côte d’Ivoire, making it difficult to determine the exact ages of millions of girls.

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 Côte d’Ivoire, child marriage is also driven by:

  • Poverty: 50% of women in Côte d’Ivoire’s poorest households were married as children, compared to only 14% in the richest households. Child marriage is often used a survival tactic, especially when families cannot afford to send girls to school. Some girls reportedly engage in prostitution in order to pay for education.
  • Level of education:43% of women with no education were married before the age of 18, compared to only 12% who had completed secondary education or higher. There are relatively few secondary schools in Côte d’Ivoire and many girls have to board or find temporary accommodation in order to attend. This leaves them vulnerable to sexual violence and marriage to perpetrators.
  • Traditional attitudes: Community and religious leaders have historically promoted child marriage. Many communities still abide by traditional customs rather than national child marriage laws, and hide child marriages from authorities. There is still a lack of awareness about the harmful impact of child marriage on girls.

Adolescent pregnancy:One in four women in Cote d’Ivoire had their first child before the age of 18. Pregnancies are exacerbated by inadequate sexual and reproductive health education. Many girls are forced to marry when they become pregnant.

What has this country committed to?

Côte d’Ivoire has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. The government provided an update on progress towards this target during its Voluntary National Review at the 2019 High Level Political Forum.

Côte d’Ivoire co-sponsored the 2016 UN General Assembly resolution on child, early and forced marriage, and the 2013 Human Rights Council resolution on child, early and forced marriage. In 2014, Côte d’Ivoire signed a joint statement at the Human Rights Council calling for a resolution on child marriage.

Côte d’Ivoire 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 1995, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

In 2019, the CEDAW Committee expressed concerns about the prevalence of child marriage and the lack of implementation of the national action plan on child marriage. It recommended the Côte d’Ivoire to remove exceptions to the minimum age of marriage, raise awareness and allocate sufficient resources to implement measures to prevent child marriage and to protect victims.

In 2019, the Child Rights Committee expressed concerns about the limited geographic scope of measures against child marriage and the limited information on protection schemes available to children, particularly girls, who are victims of or at risk of child marriage. The Committee urged Côte d’Ivoire to expedite the adoption of the draft law on marriage to remove all exceptions that allow child marriage and take active measures to put an end to this practice.

Both Committees called for measures to protect women and child rights defenders, including those advocating against child marriage, who are subjected to intimidation, harassment and threats.

During its 2014 Universal Periodic Review, concerns were raised about the lack of attention given to the persistence of forced marriage. Côte d’Ivoire supported recommendations to increase targeted, comprehensive measures to eliminate child marriage, including through education. During its 2019 Universal Periodic Review, Cote d’Ivoire supported recommendations to strengthen efforts to prevent and combat all harmful practices against women and girls, including child, early and forced marriage.

In December 2017, Côte d’Ivoire launched the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage.

In 2002 Côte d’Ivoire ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, including Article 21 regarding the prohibition of child marriage. In 2011 Côte d’Ivoire 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 Cote d’Ivoire 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.

In 2019, at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, Côte d’Ivoire committed to reduce the child marriage rate to 15% in 2030.

Cote d’Ivoire is a pathfinder country for the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children and partner country of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).

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

Instead of being treated as a specific issue within government policy, child marriage is included under the umbrella of gender-based violence. 

The Ministry of Women, Child Welfare and Solidarity established a Gender Unit to ensure that gender is considered in all programmes, policies and practices.

From 2013-2015 the government created a plan to accelerate the fight to end child marriage and adolescent pregnancy. The plan included engaging community and religious leaders in Abidjan, Man and Bondoukou to increase sensitivity towards the issue. President Alassane Ouattara supported the initiative and planned to finance a media campaign to encourage women to engage in politics and advocacy. However, the plan has yet to be implemented due to a lack of resources and budget.

Most cases of child marriage are handled by a “Centre Social,” which works with families to identify solutions and manage cases. They often coordinate with a local “Centre d’acceuil’ (welcome centres) which provide a variety of services including childcare, vaccinations, nutrition courses, and health services.

In 2014 an unprecedented ruling sentenced a father to a year in prison for attempting to marry his 11-year-old daughter. He was also fined an amount equivalent to six months of the country’s minimum wage.

In recent years, the Embassy of Canada to Côte d’Ivoire has been working with the Réseau Ivorien pour la Défense des Droits de l’Enfant et de la Femme (RIDDEF), a local NGO, to raise awareness in communities and mobilised community members, religious leaders, teachers and parents to challenge attitudes and beliefs and end child marriage.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

Under the Marriage Act 1983 the legal minimum age of marriage is 18 years for girls and 21 years for boys. However a public prosecutor can grant an exemption to the minimum age of marriage for serious reasons and with parental consent.

On March 2019, the Council of Ministers of Côte d’Ivoire approved a bill to amend the Marriage Law, which sets the minimum age of consent for marriage to 18 years for both girls and boys and remove special dispensations to the minimum age of marriage. This amendment has to be presented to the Parliament, where, if adopted, will become law following its promulgation by the President.

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).

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).

ECOWAS, Final Communique. Fifty-fifth Ordinary Session of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, 2019, https://www.ecowas.int/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Final-Communiqué_55th-Summit_Abuja_29-June-2019-1.pdf (accessed January 2020).

Global Partnership for Education, Côte d’Ivoire, [website], https://www.globalpartnership.org/where-we-work/cote-divoire (accessed February 2020).

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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).

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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)