What's the child marriage rate? How big of an issue is child marriage?
There is no publicly available government data on child marriage in Kuwait.
The practice is reportedly common among tribal groups in the country.
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 Kuwait, but available evidence indicates that is exacerbated by:
Sexual violence against girls: As reported by a local NGO, the Kuwaiti Penal Code includes provisions that exonerates a perpetrator of sexual violence if he marries his victim.
What has this country committed to?
Kuwait has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. During its Voluntary National Review at the 2019 High Level Political Forum, the government provided an update on progress towards this target, highlighting that the number of girls getting married below the age of 15 and 19 years have been progressively decreasing in recent years.
Kuwait ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, 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 1994, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.
During its 2017 review, the CEDAW Committee expressed regret about the limited efforts made by Kuwait to eliminate child marriage. It highlighted serious concerns regarding the government’s stance that revision of any discriminatory provisions related to child marriage would contravene the Sharia and the Constitution. It also raised concerns about the legalisation of child marriage under Articles 24 and 26 of the Personal Status Act 1984, and recommended that the government repeal all discriminatory provisions related to child marriage.
During its 2015 Universal Periodic Review, Kuwait agreed to examine recommendations to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18.
What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?
Under the Personal Status Act 1984, the minimum age of marriage is 15 for girls and 17 for boys.
However under Article 24 of the Act a woman may be married before the minimum age if she has reached puberty.
Musawah and Abolish Article 153, Joint Report on Article 16, Muslim Family Law and Muslim Women’s Rights In Kuwait, 2017, https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=INT%2fCEDAW%2fNGO%2fKWT%2f29225&Lang=en (accessed March 2020).
State of Kuwait, Kuwait Voluntary National Review 2019, 2019, 43, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/23384Kuwait_VNR_FINAL.PDF (accessed March 2020).
UN CEDAW, Concluding observations on the fifth periodic report of Kuwait, 2017, p.3, http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CEDAW/C/KWT/CO/5&Lang=En (accessed March 2020).
UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Kuwait, 2015, p.19, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/KWIndex.aspx (accessed March 2020).
UNICEF, KUWAIT. MENA Gender Equality Profile Status of Girls and Women in the Middle East and North Africa, 2011, https://www.unicef.org/gender/files/Kuwait-Gender-Eqaulity-Profile-2011.pdf (accessed March 2020).
United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg5
(accessed March 2020).
United States State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017, Kuwait, 2018, https://www.state.gov/reports/2017-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/kuwait/ (accessed March 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)