Photo credit: UNICEF
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)
What's the child marriage rate? How big of an issue is child marriage?
Niger has the 17th highest prevalence of child marriage globally and the ninth highest absolute number of women married or in a union before the age of 18 in the world – 1,390,000.
6% of boys in the DRC are married before the age of 18.
A 2017 World Bank/ICRW study shows that ending child marriage in the DRC could generate an additional USD 169 million in earnings and productivity.
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 the DRC, child marriage is exacerbated by:
- Poverty: Girls living in rural and poorer areas of DRC are at a higher risk of marrying young. Many families still negotiate and practice bride price (the payment of money and gifts by a groom to a bride’s family) as a means of coping with economic pressures. Bride price contributes to perceptions that husbands own girls, lowering their perceived “worth” to that of a belonging or commodity.
- Traditional attitudes: There are persistent traditional attitudes, particularly in remote areas where some parents and carers consider girls should marry and have children as soon as they menstruate.
- Level of education: A 2017 study found that girls with no education were 14 times more likely to be married before the age of 18 than those with higher education. There is no available data on school dropouts for girls before they even finish primary school.
- Adolescent pregnancy: The DRC has one of the highest fertility rates among adolescents in the world. Girls in the DRC are often expected to become mothers and wives, and this is instilled in them from a very young age. As such, use of contraception is very low and pregnancy sometimes leads to child marriage.
The DRC has endured violence and conflict for decades between communities, between non-state armed groups (including some linked to ISIL and al-Qaeda) and Congolese security forces. Escalating violence has spread across some West and Central African countries and it has 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.
In 2019, an estimated 12.8 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance and more than three million people were displaced within the DRC and neighbouring countries. This is coupled with poverty, chronic malnutrition and an ongoing Ebola outbreak declared in August 2018.
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 Nigeria
- Armed conflict: Sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls reached epidemic proportions during the First Congo War (1996–1997) and continued to escalate into Africa’s First World War (1998–2003). Military conflict in Eastern DRC increased the vulnerability of young girls being forced into marriage by armed combatants. Some girls were raped and then forced to marry the perpetrators in the hope that it might bring stability to children born out of wedlock.
Displacement: UNHCR has reported cases of child marriage among children displaced due ethnic fighting.
What has this country committed to?
The DRC has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The DRC co-sponsored the 2013 Human Rights Council resolution on child, early and forced marriage, and signed a joint statement at the 2014 Human Rights Council calling for a resolution on child marriage.
The DRC ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1986, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.
In 2013 the CEDAW Committee raised concerns about the high drop-out rate of Congolese girls due to child marriage and the different minimum ages of marriage for girls and boys. In 2019, the CEDAW Committee expressed concerns about the persistence of child marriage in the DRC, in particular in rural areas, the lack of prosecutions, and dowries being still legally allowed, which induces parents to arrange the marriage of their daughters. The CEDAW Committee urged the DRC to:
- Accelerate the operationalisation of the National Action Plan to end child marriage (2017–2021) and mobilise sufficient financial resources.
- Sensitise traditional leaders, priests and parents on the action plan, the new minimum age of marriage and the importance of eliminating discriminatory practices.
- Prosecute and sanction persons who are engaged in facilitating child marriages or adults married to children;
In 2017, Child Rights Committee expressed serious concerns about the high number of child marriages, including customary marriages in the DRC. The Committee urged the country to take effective measures to implement the legislation to eliminate child marriages, including customary marriages, and to raise awareness of the harmful effects of child marriage in collaboration with civil society, the media, traditional leaders and families.
During its 2014 Universal Periodic Review, the DRC supported recommendations to adopt provisions prohibiting child marriage and to continue efforts towards eliminating the practice. During its 2019 Universal Periodic Review, the DRC supported recommendations to fully implement the national action plan to end child marriage, promote nationwide awareness-raising campaigns, strengthen measures on social protection and legal assistance for adolescents forced to enter into marriage and step up efforts to combat gender-based violence, including child, early and forced marriage.
The DRC has not yet signed or ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, including Article 21 regarding the prohibition of child marriage. In 2008, the DRC 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.
The DRC is one of 20 countries which has committed to ending child marriage by the end of 2020 under the Ministerial Commitment on comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people in Eastern and Southern Africa.
In 2019, at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, the DRC committed to continue to promote gender equality with a view to effectively eliminating gender-based violence and strengthen investments in young girls and adolescents.
The DRC 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.
The DRC is a partner country of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).
What is the government doing to address this at the national level?
The Ministry of Gender, Women and Children of the DRC launched, with the support from UNICEF, the Action Plan to End Child Marriage on 16 June 2017, the Day of the African Child and renewed in 2019. The first phase of the Action Plan runs from 2017 to 2021, and consists of 5 pillars, namely:
- Support at-risk children and those already married;
- Improve access to and the quality of social services for these children;
- Raise awareness among children, families, traditional authorities and other opinion leaders on the harmful consequences of child marriage;
- Improve political and legal governance;
- Conduct quantitative and qualitative studies to determine the involvement of children in early marriages and to assess actions that have been taken.
The implementation of the Action Plan has an estimated cost of over two million dollars annually.
In the province of South Kivu, Girls Not Brides member Women for Equal Chances-Congo (WEC-Congo) developed an action plan at the provincial level together with the provincial level division of the Ministry and UNICEF. It was made available in February 2020.
The DRC is also reportedly conducting awareness-raising campaigns as part of the dissemination of the revised Family Code.
What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?
According to the Child Protection Act 2009 the legal minimum age of marriage is 18 years for girls and boys with no exceptions.
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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)
Members In Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Action de Récupération et de Réintégration Sociale des Enfants Délaissés (ARSED)
- Action de Solidarité des Femmes pour le Développement en Milieu Rural (ASOFED-MR)
- Action for Community Recovery and Integrated Development (ACRID)
- Action Intégrée pour le Relèvement Communautaire et la Protection de l’Environnement (AIRCPE)
- Action Pour la Protection des Droits Humains et de l’Environnement (APDHE)
- Action pour le Développement Intégral et d’Assistance Humanitaire (ADIAH)
- Action pour les Femmes et Enfants Marginalisés (AFEMA-RDC)
- Action Rapide d’aide Aux Vulnérables (ARAV)
- Action Visant l’Education et Valorisation des Enfants Non-assistés (AVEVENA)
- Actions Chrétiennes pour l’Enfance (ACEF)
- Actions Collectives pour le Développement Social (ACODES)
- AFIA MAMA
- Aides Rapide Aux Victimes Des Catastrophes (ARVC)
- Arche d’Alliance
- Association d’Appui aux Femmes et Enfants Vulnérables (ADAFEV)
- Association des Femmes et Hommes Unis pour la Paix et le Développement (AFHPD)
- Association des Jeunes pour la Paix et la Démocratie (ASJPD)
- Association des Jeunes pour le Développement Communautaire (AJDC)
- Association des Jeunes Responsables pour la Défense des Personnes Vulnérables (AJRDP)
- Association des Volontaires pour la Réconciliation et le Développement des Pays des Grands Lacs (AVRD-PGL)
- Association pour le Développement des Initiatives Paysannes
- Centre d’Encadrement des Jeunes pour le Développement Rural (CEJEDER)
- Centre d’Action Communautaire pour le Développement Intégré (CACDI)
- Centre d’Action pour le Développement Intégral des Jeunes (CADIJEUNES)
- Centre d’Encadrement Pour la Détraumatisation, Assistance Medico-Socio-Judiciaire et Développement Intégral (CEDAMEDI)
- Centre de Promotion des Femmes et des Jeunes Filles (CEPROFE)
- Club des Amis du Droit du Congo (CAD)
- Conseil Consultative de Femme Africaine (CCOFA)
- Debout Fille
- Ensemble Pour la Paix et l’Encadrement de la Femme en Milieu Rural (EPEFMR)
- Evangile Actif Auprès des Personnes Vulnerables (EVAPEV)
- Family Counseling and Planning (FCP)
- Fédération d’Exploitants Miniers Artisanaux au Congo (FEMAC)
- Fédération des Femmes pour le Développement Intégral au Congo (Fedicongo)
- Femmes en Action pour le Progrès Social (FAPROS)
- Femmes et Education des Adultes (FEDA)
- Filles Rurales Amies du Développement (FRAD)
- Groupe Milima (GM)
- Humanité Solidaire
- Initiative des Jeunes Filles en Action (IJEFA)
- Initiatives pour la Réconciliation Communautaire (INIREC)
- Jeunesse pour la Paix et le Développement du Monde Rural (JPDMR)
- Ligue de la Zone Afrique pour la Defense des Droits des Enfants et Eleves (LIZADEEL)
- Lutte Nationale Contre la Pauvreté (LUNACOP)
- Movement Alerte
- Mutuelle des Femmes Paysannes pour le Developpement et la Sante en Afrique
- Non à La Violence Contre les Femmes (NVCF)
- Partenaires Contre la Pauvreté (PACOPA)
- Paysans Actifs contre l’Ignorance et la Faim (PACIF)
- People to People Liaison (PTPL)
- Programme intégré de santé de reproduction et familiale (PISRF)
- Radio Ondese FM
- Réseau des Femmes Psychologues (REFEP)
- Sauve la femme et la jeune fille du Katanga (SAFEKA)
- Solidarité aux femmes et enfants victimes des violences et discriminations en République Démocratique du Congo (SOFEVD)
- Solidarité aux Personnes Vulnérables pour le Développement Communautaire (SOPEVUDECO)
- Solidarité des associations artisanales du Congo (SODACO)
- Solidarité des Femmes Amies des Malades Chroniques (SOFAMAC)
- Solidarité des Femmes pour le Développement Intégral (SOFDI)
- Solidarité des Jeunes Filles pour L’Education et L’Intégration Socioprofessionnelle (SOJFEP)
- Solidarité Féminine Pour La Paix et le Développement Intégral (SOFEPADI)
- Sourire dans nos Villages (SDVong)
- Une femme qui en soulève une autre (FESA)
- Vijana Hope
- Women and Children Protection (WCP)
- Women Concern (WOCO)
- Women for Equal Chances (WEC-CONGO)