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Eritrea

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

13

* 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*

13

* 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 most recent available government data from 2010, 41% of girls in Eritrea are married before the age of 18 and 13% are married before their 15th birthday.

Eritrea has the 13th highest prevalence of child marriage globally.

According to the most recent available government data from 2010, 2% of Eritrean boys are married before the age of 18.

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 exacerbated 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 helped 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 housewives 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: There are strong patriarchal ideals of purity and child marriage is sometimes used in the misguided belief to protect girls from engaging in pre-marital sex. This 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.

During its 2014 Universal Periodic Review, Eritrea agreed to examine recommendations to continue efforts to abolish child marriage. During its 2019 Universal Periodic Review, Eritrea agreed to examine recommendations to enhance measures to end child and forced marriage, namely by adopting a comprehensive strategy.

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.

In 2019, at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, Eritrea committed to end all forms of violence against women and girls, including early, child and forced marriage.

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

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.

In 2017 a National Steering Committee (NSC) encompassing the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare and the National Union of Eritrean Women was established with the aim to coordinate activities and create functional synergy in addressing the common issues that relate to harmful practices and violence against women, including child marriage. The NSC coordinates all previously existing anti- FGM/C and child marriage committees at regional, subregional and administrative villages.

As reported to the CEDAW Committee in 2019, since 2015 these anti- FGM/C and child marriage committees have conducted more than 400 meetings to develop action plans and organised campaigns on traditional harmful practices targeting over 300,000 citizens.

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 Labour and Human Welfare has previously 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.

In addition, customary laws, which differ from place to place and may not mention age restrictions for marriage, frequently take precedence over civil laws.

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).

Ending child marriage and harmful traditional practices from Eritrea, 2015, http://slideplayer.com/slide/7264442/ (accessed February 2020).

Global Partnership for Education, Eritrea, [website], https://www.globalpartnership.org/where-we-work/eritrea (accessed February 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).

Nairobi Summit, Government of the State of Eritrea’s Commitment, [website], 2019, http://www.nairobisummiticpd.org/commitment/government-state-eritreas-commitment (accessed February 2020).

National Statistics Office, Eritrea Population and Health Survey, 2010, https://www.unicef.org/eritrea/resources_17043.html (accessed February 2020).

UN CEDAW, Concluding observations on the fourth and fifth periodic reports of Eritrea, 2015, p.3, https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CEDAW%2fC%2fERI%2fCO%2f5&Lang=en (accessed February 2020).

UN CEDAW, Sixth periodic report submitted by Eritrea under article 18 of the Convention, due in 2019, CEDAW/C/ERI/6, 2019, p. 8, https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CEDAW%2fC%2fERI%2f6&Lang=en (accessed February 2020).

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Eritrea, 2014, p.20, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/ERindex.aspx (accessed February 2020).

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Eritrea, 2019, p. 18, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/ERindex.aspx (accessed February 2020).

UNICEF and UNFPA, Child Marriage: A Mapping of Programmes and Partners in Twelve Countries in East and Southern Africa, 2018, https://esaro.unfpa.org/en/publications/child-marriage-mapping-programmes-and-partners-twelve-countries-east-and-southern (accessed February 2020).

UNICEF, Eritrea Launches a National Campaign to End Child Marriage, [website], 2016, https://www.unicef.org/eritrea/ECO_newsflash_endchildmarriage.pdf (accessed February 2020).

UNICEF, Eritrean Habarawi Approach for promoting social change Collective Systemic Action on FGM/C Abandonment, 2012, https://www.unicef.org/eritrea/ECO_resources_socialchange.pdf (accessed February 2020).

UNICEF global databases 2020, based on Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), and other national surveys. Population data from United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2019). World Population Prospects 2019, Online Edition. Rev. 1.

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

Yohannes Abraha, A., Marriage Law in Eritrea: Types and Methods of Proof, 2018, http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3201871 (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)