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Namibia

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
2%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
7%

* 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: Philip Schuler | World Bank

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
2%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
7%

* 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?

7% of girls in Namibia are married before the age of 18 and 2% are married before their 15th birthday.
While laws are in place to prevent child marriage, it is still practiced under traditional arrangements with little documentation.
Girls as young as 13 are reportedly forced into marriage in a number of ethnic groups in Namibia, including the Ovahimba, indigenous San groups and in Owambo, Kavango and Zambezi communities.

Are there country-specific drivers of child marriage in this country?

Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that girls and women are somehow inferior to boys and men. There is limited information on child marriage in Namibia, but available studies show that it is driven by:

  • Traditional customs: During its 2016 Universal Periodic Review, concerns were raised that cultural practices in Namibia perpetuate gender inequality and the notion that girls are the property of men. Humiliation and violence against young girls is sometimes used to enforce submission and obedience in preparation for child marriage.
  • Gender norms: Generally young girls in Namibia marry much older men, which further emphasises power and gender imbalances within marriages.

What has this country committed to?

Namibia has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. However the government did not report on progress made against target 5.3 during its 2018 Voluntary National Review at the High Level Political Forum, the mechanism through which countries report their progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.

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

Namibia co-sponsored the 2013 Human Rights Council resolution on child, early and forced marriage, and signed a joint statement at the 2014 Human Rights Council calling for a resolution on child marriage.

Namibia ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, 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 1992, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

In 2004 Namibia ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, including Article 21 regarding the prohibition of child marriage.

In 2004 Namibia 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.

Namibia 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 2016 Universal Periodic Review, Namibia agreed to consider recommendations to take further steps to eliminate child marriage.

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

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare is working with UNICEF and other partners to accelerate efforts to end child marriage in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the African Children’s Charter. This involves strategies to address the root causes of child marriage, including economic empowerment for families, promotion of social protection, inclusive education and sexual and reproductive services, and enforcement of laws and policies which criminalise child marriage.

In June 2017 the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare announced plans to conduct a study into the extent of child marriages in Namibia with a view to raising public awareness and developing programmes in response.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

Under the Married Persons Equality Act 1996, which amends the 1961 Marriage Act, the minimum legal age of marriage is 18 years. However under Article 24 girls and boys under 18 years can marry with written permission of a minister or any staff member in the Public Service authorised by the minister.
Additionally a draft law on the recognition of customary marriages has been prepared by the Law Reform and Development Commission and seeks to set the minimum age for customary marriage at 18 years.

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)

Ministerial Commitment on comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people in Eastern and Southern African [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 Social Services, Namibia Demographic and Health Survey 2013, 2014, (accessed April 2018)

Namibian Broadcasting Corporation, Gender Equality Ministry to conduct research on extent of child marriages in Namibia-NBC, 2017, (accessed February 2018)

Namibia NGO Forum Trust, NGO Shadow Report to the Namibia Fourth and Fifth Periodic Report to the CEDAW Committee: Harmful Cultural Practices in Namibia, 2015, (accessed February 2018)

UNICEF, Namibia calls for end to child marriages as country commemorates Day of the African Child, [website], 2015, (accessed February 2018)

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Namibia, 2016, p.22, (accessed February 2018)

UN General Assembly, Summary prepared by OHCHR in accordance with paragraph 15 (c) of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 5/1 and paragraph 5 of the annex to Council resolution 16/21 Namibia, 2015, (accessed February 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)