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Papua New Guinea

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
2%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
21%

* 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
21%

* 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?

According to the most recent available data from 2006, 21% of girls in Papua New Guinea are married before the age of 18 and 2% are married before their 15th birthday.

Most traditional marriages are not officially registered and are approved according to local custom. In both rural and urban areas men and women living together are often considered husband and wife.

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 Papua New Guinea, child marriage is also driven by:

  • Gender norms: The practice of bride price is used to sell girls off in exchange for cash and goods, supporting a culture of male supremacy and positioning girls and women as belongings. Many girls in Papua New Guinea who are married off at a young age reportedly go onto become separated or divorced a few years later, placing them in a vulnerable position.
  • Traditional customs: Papua New Guinea society highly values marriage as it is considered essential for strengthening kin ties and regenerating society. This can result in extra pressure on girls to get married. Arranged marriages are practiced by nearly all ethnic groups, especially in rural areas. Some groups who reportedly did not practice bride pride in the past have adopted it as a way of demanding cash for the marriages of daughters.
  • Industry: Some girls are reportedly sold off as wives by parents, village chiefs or family members to local mining and logging workers in areas where extractive industries operate. A 2004 study found that girls were being sold to men with large amounts of disposable cash earned through mining.
  • Adolescent pregnancy: High levels of child marriage, combined with poor access to contraception, is likely a significant contributing factor to Papua New Guinea’s high infant and maternal mortality rates (64 per 1,000 live births).
  • Religion: The Church reportedly contributes to a stereotype that women should be “good”, thus limiting their self-determination and sexual freedom.

What has this country committed to?

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

Papua New Guinea co-sponsored the 2013 and 2014 UN General Assembly resolutions on child, early and forced marriage.

Papua New Guinea 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 1995, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

During Papua New Guinea’s 2016 Universal Periodic Review, it was commended for taking several steps towards tackling child marriage, including the adoption of the Lukautim Pikinini (Child Amendment) Act 2014, which criminalised the marriage of children under the age of 18.

During its 2010 review, the CEDAW Committee expressed concern about the practice of bride price and child marriages in rural, remote areas.

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

Amnesty International has recommended that the government provide clear guidance to Village Court Magistrates on the implications of CEDAW over customary law, alongside training on forced and child marriage.

The Papua New Guinea government announced upcoming amendments to the legal age of marriage through the Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2015 and the Matrimonial (Clauses) Bill 2015. The proposed amendments widened the scope of ‘marriage’ to include customary marriages, such that the statutory minimum marriageable age would apply. Further, the amendments proposed a standard minimum age of 18 years for girls and boys. However no amendments have been made to date.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

Under the Marriage Act 1963 the minimum legal age for marriage is 16 years for girls and 18 years for boys. However girls can marry at 14 years and boys at 16 with judicial consent.

Customary marriages, determined by male-dominated village courts, allow girls as young as 12 or 13 to marry. This is rarely challenged in the courts because few people understand their constitutional rights.

Source

Amnesty International, Papua New Guinea: Violence against Women: Never Inevitable, Never Acceptable!, 2006,
https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa34/002/2006/en/ (accessed June 2018)

International Labor Organisation, Child labour in PNG: Report on the rapid assessment in Port Moresby on commercial sexual exploitation of children and children working on the streets 2011, www.ilo.org/ipecinfo/product/download.do?type=document&id=19136 (accessed June 2018)

National Statistics Office, Papua New Guinea Demographic Health Survey 2006, 2007,
http://pdl.spc.int/index.php/catalog/30/accesspolicy (accessed June 2018)

Papua New Guinea National Council of Women, The CEDAW shadow report ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA AND THE AUTONOMOUS REGION OF BOUGAINVILLE, 2010,
https://ia801802.us.archive.org/8/items/CEDAWSHADOWREPORT/CEDAW_SHADOW_REPORT_text.pdf (accessed June 2018)

Plan International Australia, Just married, just a child – child marriage in the Indo-Pacific region, 2014, https://www.plan.org.au/~/media/plan/documents/resources/plan_child_marriage_report_july_2014.pdf?la=en (accessed June 2018)

UNICEF and Government of Papua New Guinea, Development Programming and the Well-being of the Girl Child: Report to Accelerate Human Rights-based Approach to Development Programming in Papua New Guinea, 2006, https://www.unicef.org/eapro/Dev_programming_girl_child.pdf (accessed June 2018)

UN CEDAW, Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Papua New Guinea, 2010, p.13, http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CEDAW/C/PNG/CO/3&Lang=En (accessed June 2018)

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Papua New Guinea, 2016, p.5,
https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/PGindex.aspx (accessed June 2018)

United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg5 (accessed February 2018)

United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) and UNICEF, Violence against the girl child in the Pacific Islands region, 2006, http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/egm/elim-disc-viol-girlchild/ExpertPapers/EP.14%20%20Ali.pdf (accessed June 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 Papua New Guinea