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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.

5% of boys in Myanmar are married before the age of 18. 

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

Child marriage rates are 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:

  • Gender norms: There are restrictive gender roles and limited autonomy for women and girls, who are generally expected to be wives and mothers. Some girls have reported that boys become less interested in them if they pursue education or work.
  • Adolescent pregnancy: Unintended adolescent pregnancy, from both consensual and forced sex, has been reported as a factor contributing to child marriage. Frequently, girls and women who are raped are forced to marry the perpetrator in so-called “reparation marriages” to avoid bringing further shame to communities.
  • Trafficking: A 2019 Human Rights Watch report revealed cases of trafficking of girls from the states of Kachin and Shan into China, where they are married off to Chinese men.

Humanitarian settings can encompass a wide range of situations before, during, and after natural disasters, conflicts, and epidemics. They exacerbate poverty, insecurity, and lack of access to services such as education, factors which all drive child marriage. In times of crisis, families see child marriage as a way to cope with greater economic hardship and to protect girls from increased violence. Myanmar is currently divided by active ethnic armed conflicts and, at the end of 2019, about 250,000 displaced people remained in camps or camp-like situations after fleeing violence. Myanmar is also one of the countries at highest risk of natural disasters in Southeast Asia.

  • Armed conflict and displacement: Ongoing ethnic conflict has resulted in significant rates of forced displacement, placing girls at heightened risk of being married off. Following a surge in violence in Rakhine state in September 2017, over 600,000 Rohingya refugees fled to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. Since then, there have been a number of reports about families resorting to child marriage as a coping mechanism. For example, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Rohingya girls as young as 11 years old are being forced into marriage by their families in order to reduce the number of children to feed. The UN has reported that high numbers of unaccompanied children and shortages of food are forcing children into marriage. In addition, displacement in camps makes women and girls more accessible to traffickers.
  • Violence against women and girls: Myanmar have a documented longstanding history of military-perpetrated sexual violence, particularly in eastern Myanmar. This has increased the number of “reparation marriages”. In some cases, families see child marriage as a form of protection and security from rape. However, child marriage makes girls more vulnerable to rape and other forms of violence in the home.

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.

During its 2016 review, the CEDAW Committee raised concerns about the lack of data on child marriage in Myanmar. It recommended that the government gathers disaggregated data on child marriage and adopts a comprehensive strategy aimed at ending the practice. In 2019, the CEDAW Committee expressed concerns over the situation of Rohingya girls who are at risk of child marriage and trafficking, and recommended Myanmar to take measures to prevent child marriages and cooperate with the government of Bangladesh.

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.

In 2019, the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar of the UN Human Rights Council released a report on the Sexual and gender-based violence in Myanmar and the gendered impact of its ethnic conflicts. Early and forced marriage were referred as one of the consequences endured by Rohingya women and girls as survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. The report also denounced the trafficking of women and girls for forced marriage into China.

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.

Myanmar is one of the countries where the Spotlight Initiative (a global, multi-year partnership between the European Union and the United Nations) is supporting efforts to end all forms of sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices against women and girls.

Myanmar is a partner developing country of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).

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

Child marriage remains under addressed in Myanmar.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

The Child Rights Law, enacted on July 2019, raised the minimum age of marriage for girls to 18 years old. The minimum marriageable age for boys continues to be 18 years old.

However, 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. Hence, it is early to say how the newly enacted Child Rights Law will be enforced in relation to the minimum age of marriage for girls.

Previously existing 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, http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Women/WG/ASEANdeclarationVaW_violenceagainstchildren.pdf (accessed December 2019).

Global Partnership for Education, Myanmar, [website], https://www.globalpartnership.org (accessed December 2019).

Human Rights Watch, “Give Us a Baby and We’ll Let You Go”. Trafficking of Kachin “Brides” from Myanmar to China, [website], 2019, https://www.hrw.org/report/2019/03/21/give-us-baby-and-well-let-you-go/trafficking-kachin-brides-myanmar-china (accessed December 2019).

Ministry of Health and Sports and ICF, Myanmar Demographic and Health Survey 2015-16, 2017,

https://www.dhsprogram.com/pubs/pdf/FR324/FR324.pdf (accessed December 2019).

Tanabe, M. et al., An exploration of gender-based violence in eastern Myanmar in the context of political transition: findings from a qualitative sexual and reproductive health assessment, Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters, Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters, 27:2, pp. 112-125, 2019, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/26410397.2019.1665161 (accessed December 2019).

The Atlantic, Child Marriage in the Rohingya Camps in Bangladesh, [website], 2017,https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2017/12/child-marriage-in-the-rohingya-camps-in-bangladesh/548408/ (accessed December 2019).

UN CEDAW, Concluding observations on the combined fourth and fifth periodic reports of Myanmar, CEDAW/C/MMR/CO/4-5, 2016, p.7, https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CEDAW%2fC%2fMMR%2fCO%2f4-5&Lang=en (accessed December 2019).

UN CEDAW, Concluding observations on the exceptional report of Myanmar, CEDAW/C/MMR/EP/CO/1, 2019, p. 8, https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CEDAW%2fC%2fMMR%2fCO%2fEP%2f1&Lang=en (accessed December 2019).

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Myanmar, 2015, p.9, 16, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/MMindex.aspx (accessed December 2019).

United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg5 (accessed December 2019).

United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Myanmar and the Gendered Impact of Its Ethnic Conflicts, A/HRC/42/CRP.4, 2019, https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/FFM-Myanmar/sexualviolence/A_HRC_CRP_4.pdf (accessed December 2019).

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Myanmar, [website], https://www.unocha.org/myanmar (accessed December 2019).

UNFPA, Ending early marriage in rural Myanmar, [website], 2016, https://myanmar.unfpa.org/en/news/ending-early-marriage-rural-myanmar (accessed December 2019).

UNICEF, The enactment of the new Child Rights Law by the Government of Myanmar a landmark step, [website], 2019, https://www.unicef.org/myanmar/press-releases/enactment-new-child-rights-law-government-myanmar-landmark-step-unicef (accessed December 2019).

Report of the Secretary-General on Conflict related Sexual Violence, 2016, https://www.un.org/sexualviolenceinconflict/wp-content/uploads/report/s-2016-361/SG-Annual-Report-spread-2015.pdf (accessed December 2019).

Spotlight Initiative, Safe and Fair programme, [website], https://spotlightinitiative.org/safe-and-fair (accessed December 2019).

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

https://www.wvi.org/sites/default/files/report_SituationalanalysisCEFMVietnamLaosMyanmarandCambodia-FINAL.docx-2.pdf (accessed December 2019).

* 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