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

* 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: Tall as the Baobab Tree film | Jeremy Teicher

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

* 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?

31% of girls in Senegal are married before their 18th birthday and 9% are married before the age of 15.

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

Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that girls are somehow inferior to boys. In Senegal, child marriage is also driven by:

  • Pre-marital sex: High value is placed on virginity in Senegal. Some parents marry off their daughters at a young age because they fear that they might become pregnant out of wedlock, which brings dishonour to families.
  • Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C): Some Senegalese women believe that FGM/C aids marriage prospects. This often takes place during puberty, when many girls are considered ready to marry.
  • Level of education: A 2013 study carried out by ENDA GRAF SAHEL’s education division shows that in Kédougou, child marriage is the leading cause of girls dropping out of school. This damages their physical, intellectual and psychological development.
  • Ethnicity: According to a 2017 study, attitudes towards child marriage vary across ethnic groups. Some Halpulaars consider 17 to be very late for a girl to marry. Some Bassari communities believe a girl is ready to marry when she can manage to pound 50 kilograms of millet at one time. Some Wolof and Diola ethnic groups consider a girl is ready to marry before the age of 14.
  • Traditional customs: Different ethnic groups have different customary practices related to child marriage. The Peulh ethnic group grants child marriages at an early age between families. Future brides are moved into their marital home so they can become familiar with it. Submission and obedience are critical qualities, and child marriage is used to reinforce social alliances. According to respondents in Tambacounda region, it is unthinkable for a Peulh family to refuse a marriage proposal from another related family.

What has this country committed to?

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

In its 2018 Voluntary National Review at the High Level Political Forum (the mechanism through which countries report progress in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals), Senegal reported progress made in addressing child marriage as well as changes in prevalence rates.

Senegal co-sponsored the 2013 and 2014 UN General Assembly resolutions on child, early and forced marriage, and the 2013 Human Rights Council resolution on child, early and forced marriage.

In 2014, Senegal signed a joint statement at the Human Rights Council calling for a resolution on child marriage.

Senegal ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1985, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

In June 2016, Senegal launched the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa.

In 1998 Senegal ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, including Article 21 regarding the prohibition of child marriage.

In 2004 Senegal 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), Senegal has adopted the Strategic Framework for Strengthening National Child Protection Systems under which protecting children from marriage is a priority.

During its 2013 Universal Periodic Review, Senegal supported recommendations to run public awareness programmes on the harmful consequences of child marriage and to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18.

In 2015 the CEDAW Committee raised concerns about the lack of criminalisation of marriages with a child aged between 13 and 18. It recommended that that government carry out awareness-raising on child marriage directed at men and women in cooperation with civil society.

In 2016 the UN Child Rights Committee raised concerns about slow progress in the abandonment of child marriage, particularly in rural areas. It recommended that Senegal expedite the adoption of the Plan of Action to End Child Marriage and implement effective monitoring systems to assess progress towards this.

At the Girl Summit in July 2014, the government signed a charter committing to end child marriage by 2020;

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

The government has led important efforts to tackle FGM/C, and whilst it seems reluctant to act on the same level with child marriage, the two practices are equally harmful and often linked.

While the government does not appear to have a specific, nationwide policy on child marriage, a 2017 reshuffle led to the issue of child marriage being taken on by the newly-created Ministry on Good Governance and Child Protection.

The government is in the process of developing an Action Plan for implementing the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa, but as of 2018 a draft has not been released.

The government’s hosting of the 2017 High-Level Meeting on Ending Child Marriage in West and Central Africa signified a promising opportunity to continue advocating for efforts to eliminate child marriage at the national level.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

Under the Family Code 1989 the minimum legal age of marriage is 16 years for girls and 18 years for boys. However they may marry before this if the President of the Regional Court makes an exemption for serious reasons. If this occurs, the consent of the individual’s parents will also be required.


28 Too Many, Country Profile: FGM in Senegal, 2015, (accessed March 2018)

Agence Nationale de la Statistique et de la Démographie et ICF, Sénégal Enquête Démographique et de Santé Continue, 2015, (accessed June 2018)

All Africa, Africa: Senegal Leading the Fight to End FGM in Africa, [website], 2017, (accessed March 2018)

DEUXIEME RAPPORT COMPLEMENTAIRE DE LA CONAFE, Sur le 2ème, 3ème et 4ème rapport périodique du Sénégal, relatif aux Droits de l’Enfant Année, 2015, [unpublished]

Ending Child Marriage, 23-25 October 2017, Dakar, Senegal, [website], 2017, (accessed March 2018)

L’Agence Nationale de la Statistique et de la Démographie du Sénégal et UNICEF, Situation Des Enfants Et Des Femmes Dakar Urbain 2015-2016, Senegal, 2016, (accessed March 2018)

MINISTERE DE LA FEMME, DE LA FAMILLE ET DE l’ENFANCE, Analyses des Déterminants Sociaux Culturels et Économiques des Facteurs favorisants les Mariages d’Enfants dans les Régions de Diourbel, 2017, [unpublished]

UNFPA, Child Marriage Country Profile: Senegal, 2016, (accessed March 2018)

UN CEDAW, Concluding observations on the combined third to seventh periodic reports of Senegal, 2015, p.13, p.14, (accessed March 2018)

UN Child Rights Committee, Concluding observations on the combined third to fifth periodic reports of Senegal, 2016, p.11, p.12, (accessed March 2018)

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Senegal, 2013, p.19, p.20, (accessed March 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)