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Lesotho

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
1%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
17%

* 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)

Photo credit: Help Lesotho

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
1%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
17%

* 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?

17% of girls in Lesotho are married before the age of 18 and 1% are married before their 15th birthday.

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 very limited information on child marriage in Lesotho, but available studies suggest that it is driven by:

  • Traditional customs: Cultural practices and traditions regarding child marriage often take precedence over formal legislation.
  • Limited awareness: According to Help Lesotho, some children are forced into marriages because of a lack of knowledge. The organisation highlights the importance of parents having open lines of communication with their children.

What has this country committed to?

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

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

Lesotho ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and 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 October 2017, Lesotho launched the African Union campaign to end child marriage in Africa.

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

In 2004 Lesotho 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.

Lesotho is one of 20 countries which has committed to ending child marriage by the end of 2020 under the Ministerial Commitment on comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people in Eastern and Southern Africa.

During its 2015 Universal Periodic Review, Lesotho supported recommendations to provide effective institutional mechanisms to prevent child marriage.

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

World Vision Lesotho, UNICEF and the Justice Ministry organised a second National Children’s Parliament in January 2017. The shadow parliamentary opposition criticised the government for its failure to enforce laws prohibiting parents and guardians from marrying off their children for money. Deputy Minister of Education, Thabang Kholumo, said that children must be given a chance to develop without being forced into early marriages.

Child Prime Minister, Tšitso Monokoa, highlighted that the government has done a lot to protect children and their welfare rights, making reference to the Child Protection and Welfare Act 2011, the Marriage Act 1992 and 1974, the Labour Code Act 1992 and the Education Act 2010.

During World Vision’s International Day of the Girl-Child event in 2016, Queen Masenate of Lesotho encouraged those present to stand up to end child marriages which undermine the rights of girls who have to suffer physical, emotional and mental scars as a result.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

Under the Marriage Act 1974 the minimum legal age of marriage is 18 years for boys and 16 years for girls.

However, under Article 27 both boys and girls can marry before the ages of 18 and 16 years respectively with the permission of the Minister and with parental consent.

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)

Ministerial Commitment on comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people in Eastern and Southern Africa [website], 2014, (accessed February 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)

Ministry of Health and ICF International, Lesotho Demographic and Health Survey 2014, 2016, (accessed May 2018)

Sunday Express, Escaping child marriage by a whisker, [website], 2017, (accessed June 2018)

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Lesotho, 2015, p.19, (accessed May 2018)

United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, (accessed February 2018)

World Vision International, Queen Masenate of Lesotho campaigns with World Vision against early child marriage, [website], 2016, (accessed May 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)