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Myanmar

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
2%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
16%

* 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
2%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
16%

* 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?

16% of girls in Myanmar are married before the age of 18 and 2% are married before the age of 15.

The median age of marriage is lowest in Rakhine and Shan states.

Child marriage is difficult to accurately track in Myanmar due to complex customary practices among the country’s 135 recognised ethnic groups.

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 Myanmar, child marriage is also driven by:

  • Humanitarian context: Following a surge in violence in Rakhine state in September 2017, over 600,000 Rohingya refugees fled to Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh. The UN has reported that high numbers of unaccompanied children and shortages of food are forcing children into marriage. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Rohingya girls as young as 11 are being forced into marriage by their families in order to reduce the number of children to feed.
  • Armed conflict: Ongoing ethnic conflict – particularly in Shan, Rakhine and Kachin states – has resulted in significant rates of forced displacement and has placed girls at heightened risk of being married off.
  • Trafficking: Some young girls are trafficked into China in pursuit of work, or sold by their family members and married off to Chinese men.
  • Traditional customs: Some girls and women in Shan state who are raped are forced to marry their victims in order to “settle” cases and avoid bringing further shame to communities.
  • Gender norms: Women and girls are generally expected to be wives and mothers, and some girls have reported that boys become less interested in them if they pursue education or work.

What has this country committed to?

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

Myanmar acceded to 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 1997, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

Myanmar has committed to the ASEAN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and Violence against Children (2013), which acknowledges the importance of strengthening ASEAN efforts to protect children from all forms of violence, including early marriage.

During Myanmar’s 2015 Universal Periodic Review, concerns were raised about the absence of a minimum age of marriage for boys and the legality of marriage for girls as young as 14. Myanmar supported recommendations to prohibit forced and child marriages.

During its 2016 review, the CEDAW Committee raised concerns about the lack of data on child marriage in Myanmar. It recommended that the government gather disaggregated data on child marriage and adopt a comprehensive strategy aimed at ending the practice.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

The legal framework around marriage in Myanmar is complex. The legal system comprises Customary Law, Statutory Law, and judicial decisions. The customary laws include Burmese Buddhist Law, Hindu Law and the traditional customs of the ethnic groups. According to Section 13 of the Burma Laws Act,2 the customary laws have the force of law.

Therefore some of the different legislation in Myanmar around the legal age of marriage include:

  • Under the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1930 the minimum legal age of marriage is 18 years for boys and 14 years for girls.
  • Under the Special Marriage Act (for marriage between persons professing different religions or no religion) the legal age of marriage for girls is 14 years, and 18 years for boys.
  • Under the Christian Marriage Act, Section 60, the legal age of marriage is 13 years for girls and 16 years for boys.

An amendment to Article 375 of the Penal Code in January 2016 raised the minimum age of statutory rape to 15 years (it was previously 13 years), which was not consistent with the minimum age of marriage (13 or 14 years) provided for in the marriage-related laws to the extent that the sexual intercourse between a man and his wife under 15 years would constitute rape.

A bill was proposed in 2017 to amend all marriage-related laws in accordance with this new minimum age of consent.

Source

ASEAN Commission on the Rights of Women and Children, The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and Elimination of Violence against Children in ASEAN, 2013, (accessed February 2018)

BBC Asia, Sold in Myanmar and trafficked to China, [website], 2015, (accessed May 2018)

Cord, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 2017, [website], 2017, (accessed May 2018)

Ministry of Health and Sports and ICF, Myanmar Demographic and Health Survey 2015-16, 2017, (accessed May 2018)

The Atlantic, Child Marriage in the Rohingya Camps in Bangladesh, [website], 2017, (accessed May 2018)

UN CEDAW, Concluding observations on the combined fourth and fifth periodic reports of Myanmar, 2016, p.7, (accessed May 2018)

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Myanmar, 2015, p.9, 16, (accessed May 2018)

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

World Vision International, Situational Analysis on Child, Early and Forced Marriage in Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia, [undated], (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)

Members In Myanmar