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Solomon Islands

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
6%
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
6%
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?

21% of girls living in the Solomon Islands are married before their 18th birthday and 6% before the age of 15.

Customary marriages of young girls still take place and, despite not being registered, these are often recognised by courts as valid.

A 2015 survey shows that younger girls in the Solomon Islands are delaying marriage. Whereas 21% of women aged 20-24 were married by the age of 18, 29% of women aged 45-49 were married by the same age.

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 the Solomon Islands, child marriage is also driven by:

  • Poverty: The Solomon Islands is one of the poorest countries in the Pacific region. Economic challenges, especially in rural areas, force some families to marry young girls off to a groom’s family in exchange for payment – known as a bride-price. This contributes to a perception that husbands “own” young girl brides, making them more vulnerable to violence. In a World Vision study conducted in the capital city of Honiara, 90% of respondents reported that their community practise bride price.
  • Gender norms: Traditional beliefs that men are superior often justify oppressive behaviour towards women and girls. Scholars note that the recent civil war and the “undermining” of male roles in modern Melanesian culture has led to aggressive forms of masculinity which further harm women and girls.
  • Traditional customs: These vary across Melanesian, Polynesian and Micronesian communities, but often encourage child marriage as a means of ensuring that land inheritance and ownership remains in the family.
  • Migration: An increase in foreign men working as labourers in the logging industry to the Solomon Islands has reportedly led to young girls being sold into marriages with them.

What has this country committed to?

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

The Solomon Islands co-sponsored the 2014 UN General Assembly resolution on child, early and forced marriage.

The Solomon Islands acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1995, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 2002, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

During its 2016 Universal Periodic Review the Solomon Islands agreed to examine recommendations related to combatting child marriage and the practice of bride price.

In 2018 the UN Child Rights Committee raised concerns regarding the timeline for reviewing the Islanders Births, Deaths and Marriage Act which allows girls to marry at the age of 15. Despite the report identifying the legal gap for the minimum age for marriage, the government responded to the Committee to say that “Raising the minimum age of marriage of 15 was not a priority of the on-going legal reforms at the moment.”

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

The National Policy on Eliminating Violence Against Women (2016) notes that laws must be consistently enforced and education about such must be widely available, including the marriage and divorce (family) law and traditional kastom law.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

The Islanders Marriage Act states that the legal age of marriage is 15 years of age, with parental consent required up until the age of 18 (or judicial consent where parental consent is not possible).

In practice, many customary marriages involving girls under the age of 15 still take place. Customary marriage (marriage arranged according to indigenous customs rather than statutory ceremonies) is closely tied to the concept of customary land inheritance. Most communities also practice payment of bride-price. The disjuncture between customary and formal marriage laws makes it challenging to lay down sanctions for customary marriages.

The Child and Family Welfare Act 2017 defines a child as “a person who is under the age of 18 years, but does not include a child who is or has been married”. This amended the Penal Code (Sexual Offences) Act 2016 to define a child as “a person under 18 years of age”. However the Penal code also stipulates that the age of consent to sexual activity is 15 years.

Source

American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative and Solomon Islands Christian Association, Policy Note: Raising Awareness on Trafficking of Persons in Solomon Islands, 2012, (accessed February 2018)

Asian Development Bank, Solomon Islands Country Gender Assessment, 2015, (accessed February 2018)

Christian Care Centre et. al, NGO Shadow Report on the Status of Women in Solomon Islands, Initial, Second and Third Report, 2012, (accessed February 2018)

Equal Rights Trust, Shadow report submitted to the 59th session of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in relation to the combined initial to third periodic reports of Solomon Islands, 2014, (accessed February 2018)

Inter-Parliamentary Union and World Health Organization, Child, early and forced marriage legislation in 37 Asia-Pacific countries, 2016, (accessed February 2018)

Secretariat of the Pacific Community for Ministry of Women, Youth & Children’s Affairs, Solomon Islands Family Health and Safety Study: A study on violence against women and children, 2009, (accessed February 2018)

Solomon Islands National Statistics Office, Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Pacific Community, Demographic and Health Survey 2015, 2017, (accessed February 2018)

The Commonwealth, Commonwealth Roundtable on Early and Forced Marriage, 2013, (accessed February 2018)

UN Child Rights Committee, Concluding observations on the second and third periodic reports of the Solomon Island, 2018, p.3, (accessed June 2018)

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Solomon Islands, 2016, p.22, (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)