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What's the child marriage rate? How big of an issue is child marriage?

One in five girls in Kiribati are married before the age of 18 and 3% are married before their 15th birthday.

Data from Kiribati’s 2009 Demographic and Health Survey shows that fewer girls are marrying 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. There is limited information on child marriage in Kiribati, but available data shows that it is largely driven by:

  • Gender norms: The position of girls and women in Kiribati society is largely defined by marital status, which incentivises some girls to marry young. Generally, the main purpose for girls and women is to marry, raise children, conduct household work and take responsibility for overall family welfare. Young women in particular have little authority or independence, and are expected to behave in an honourable way.
  • Pre-marital sex: Female chastity is highly valued in Kiribati. If a girl loses her virginity or is raped, te kabara bure – reconciliation – is sought between the two families involved. This often results in an arranged marriage between the girl and the male perpetrator.
  • Level of education: Some schools in Kiribati do not accept girls as students if they become engaged, married or pregnant. This affects the self-worth of girls and limits the options available to them.

What has this country committed to?

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

Kiribati co-sponsored the 2013 UN General Assembly resolution on child, early and forced marriage.

Kiribati acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1995, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 2004, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

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

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

The minimum legal age of marriage in Kiribati is 21 years. However as per the Children, Young People and Family Welfare Act 2013 (No. 6 of 2013), a person aged 17-21 may marry with parental consent or with the consent of their guardian.


Crime and Justice Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington, Pacific Prevention of Domestic Violence Programme: Update of Baseline In-Country Review Kiribati Report, 2011, (accessed March 2018)

Kiribati National Statistics Office and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Kiribati Demographic and Health Survey 2009, 2010, (accessed April 2018)

UNICEF Pacific Office, Fiji, Kiribati Islands: A Situation Analysis of Children, Women and Youth, 2005, (accessed March 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)