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Liberia

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
9%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
36%
International Ranking*

22

* 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: United Nations | Martine Perret

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
9%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
36%
International Ranking*

22

* 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?

36% of girls in Liberia are married before their 18th birthday and 9% are married before the age of 15.

The lowest median ages of marriage are in Lofa, Bong and Bomi.

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 Liberia, child marriage is also driven by:

  • Poverty: Girls in Liberia’s poorest households are more likely to marry than those in the richest households.
  • Level of education: Liberian girls with no education are more likely to marry before the age of 18.
  • Traditional customs: Some communities mark a girl’s social transition from childhood to adolescence through initiation ceremonies. These are conducted by female sande secret societies that are responsible for initiating girls into adulthood, and mark their readiness to enter into unions with men.
  • Violence against girls: Some Liberian girls are married off to male “protectors” soon after puberty with the misguided perception that this will shield them from exposure to sexual predators. This is a customary practice that is particularly common during times of conflict.

What has this country committed to?

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

Liberia co-sponsored the 2015 Human Rights Council resolution to end child, early and forced marriage, recognising that it is a violation of human rights.

Liberia co-sponsored the 2013, 2014 and 2016 UN General Assembly resolutions on child, early and forced marriage, and signed a joint statement at the 2014 Human Rights Council calling for a resolution on child marriage.

Liberia ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1993, 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 1984, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

In December 2016, Liberia became the 18th country to launch the African Union campaign to end child marriage in Africa under the theme “We are children, not wives, save us from child marriage”.

In 1992 Liberia signed, but has not yet ratified, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, including Article 21 regarding the prohibition of child marriage.
In 2007 Liberia 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), Liberia has adopted the Strategic Framework for Strengthening National Child Protection Systems under which protecting children from marriage is a priority.

During its 2015 Universal Periodic Review, Liberia agreed to examine recommendations to combat child marriage and increase support for girls in rural areas and from the poorest households who are most at risk.

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

In December 2016, the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection officially launched a campaign to end child marriage in the country.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

The minimum legal age of marriage in Liberia is 18 years. There is no data available regarding exceptions to this minimum age.

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)

Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, National AIDS Control Program and ICF International, Liberia
Demographic and Health Survey 2013, 2014, (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)

UNICEF, The Situation of Children and Women in Liberia 2012, From Conflict to Peace, 2012, (accessed May 2018)

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Liberia, 2015, p.20, (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)