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Eritrea

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
13%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
41%
International Ranking*

14

* 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)

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
13%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
41%
International Ranking*

14

* 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?

41% of girls in Eritrea are married before the age of 18 and 13% are married before their 15th birthday.

According to UNICEF, Eritrea has the 14th highest prevalence rate globally of girls married before 18 years.

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 Eritrea, child marriage is also driven by:

  • Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is used to protect girls from losing their virginity or having children out of wedlock, which is seen to disqualify them from being ‘marriageable’. In a 2012 study, 67% of respondents felt that FGM/C helps them to gain social acceptance and find better marriage partners.
  • Gender norms: Traditionally Eritrean mothers have trained their daughters to take on the role of a housewife by learning to cook, clean, fetch water and make fire from as young as seven. According to local organisation Voice of Eritrean Women, girls are also expected to speak softly and comply with strict gender expectations. If they violate these norms, they are often deemed ‘unfit’ for marriage.
  • Pre-marital sex: Child marriage is sometimes used in the misguided belief to protect girls from engaging in pre-marital sex, which is seen as essential in ensuring better marriage opportunities and family stability. If a girl is found to have lost her virginity, her wedding is likely to be cancelled and she becomes stigmatised by her community.
  • Escape: Some girls reportedly marry in order to avoid enrolment at the Sawa Military Training Centre and national service.

What has this country committed to?

Eritrea has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

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

Eritrea ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1994, 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 1995, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

In June 2016, the government launched the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage.

In 1999 Eritrea ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, including Article 21 regarding the prohibition of child marriage.

In 2012 Eritrea signed, but has not yet 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.

During its 2014 Universal Periodic Review, Eritrea agreed to examine recommendations to continue efforts to abolish child marriage.

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

In 2016, the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the National Union of Eritrean Women, UNICEF, the African Union and UNFPA, launched a national campaign to end child marriage in Eritrea, in which delegates committed to ensuring legal instruments were enforced to end the practice.

The government is also working to tackle FGM/C and gender parity in elementary and middle education in order to improve the status of girls in Eritrean society and decrease the incidence of child marriage. The Ministry of Education is conducting awareness-raising on the importance of sending girls to school, whilst also supporting married girls to complete their education.

The Ministry of Labor and Human Welfare has organised training workshops for sub-regional social workers and has established Child Well-being Committees with the objective of expediting implementation of the Child Rights Convention and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

The revised Marriage Law 1991 sets 18 years as the minimum legal age of marriage. However girls may be given dispensation to marry at 16 years if they are pregnant or have already given birth to a child.

Source

African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, [website], 2018, (accessed February 2018)

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, (accessed February 2018)

African Union, Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa: Call to Action, 2013, (accessed February 2018)

Ending child marriage and harmful traditional practices from Eritrea, 2015, (accessed June 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)

National Statistics Office, Eritrea Population and Health Survey, 2010, (accessed May 2018)

UNICEF, ERITREAN HABARAWI APPROACH for promoting social change Collective Systemic Action on FGM/C Abandonment, 2012, (accessed June 2018)

UNICEF, Eritrea Launches a National Campaign to End Child Marriage, [website], 2016, (accessed May 2018)

UN CEDAW, Concluding observations on the fourth and fifth periodic reports of Eritrea, 2015, p.3, (accessed June 2018)

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Eritrea, 2014, p.20, (accessed May 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)