Visit our new interactive Atlas!

Gambia

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
9%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
30%

* 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
9%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
30%

* 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?

30% of girls in The Gambia are married before the age of 18 and 9% are married before their 15th birthday.

The lowest median ages of marriage are in Kuntaur and Basse.

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 The Gambia, child marriage is also driven by:

  • Level of education: Girls without education tend to marry at a younger age than those who have completed primary or secondary school.
  • Poverty: Girls from The Gambia’s poorest households are more likely to marry as children.
  • Pre-marital sex: Some parents reportedly marry off their daughters in order to avoid them becoming pregnant before marriage.
  • Gender norms: Girls in The Gambia are given very little choice in decisions around marriage. Prospective husbands often give their parents money or jewellery or make promises, such as sending them to Mecca, in order to secure marriages.

What has this country committed to?

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

In 2014, The Gambia signed a joint statement at the Human Rights Council calling for a resolution on child marriage.

The Gambia 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 (CEDAW) in 1993, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

In 2000 The Gambia ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, including Article 21 regarding the prohibition of child marriage.

In 2005 The Gambia 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), The Gambia has adopted the Strategic Framework for Strengthening National Child Protection Systems under which protecting children from marriage is a priority.

During its 2014 Universal Periodic Review, The Gambia agreed to examine recommendations to enact laws prohibiting child marriage and to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18.

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

On 16 June 2016, The Gambia launched the African Union campaign to end child marriage in Africa. The government also declared June 2016 as “the month on ending child marriage” and organised a nationwide sensitization campaign under the leadership of the First Lady Madam Zineb Jammeh.

With support from UNICEF, the Gambian Women’s Bureau has been working closely with Tostan, an international NGO, to engage communities through the Community Empowerment Programme (CEP). The CEP empowers girls so they can make their own decisions and supports community members to take a more active role in ending child marriage and other harmful traditional practices.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

In July 2016, The Gambia made all marriages under the age of 18 illegal.

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 May 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)

The Gambia Bureau of Statistics and ICF International, The Gambia Demographic and Health Survey 2013, 2014, (accessed May 2018)

The Standard, UNFPA lauds Gambia child marriage ban, [website], 2016, (accessed May 2018)

UNICEF Gambia, Breaking the cycle – ending child marriage, [website], 2014,(accessed May 2018)

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Gambia, 2014, p.18, (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)