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Somalia

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
8%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
45%
International Ranking*

10

* 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
8%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
45%
International Ranking*

10

* 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?

The most recent available data from 2006 shows that 45% of girls in Somalia are married before their 18th birthday and 8% are married before the age of 15.

According to UNICEF, Somalia has the tenth highest prevalence rate of child marriage in the world.

Decades of poverty, armed violence, displacement, political insecurity and natural disasters have exacerbated humanitarian needs in Somalia. As of April 2018, there are 2.1 million internally displaced people there and 2.7 million people are experiencing a food crisis.

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 Somalia, child marriage is also driven by:

  • Religion: Religious leaders do not openly speak out against forced marriages, nor do they issue religious fatwas against these practices. Some leaders reportedly give permission for child marriages to take place.
  • Gender norms: Unequal gender norms and power dynamics place girls in a subservient position. Somalia is one of few countries in the world where it is estimated that almost 100% of women have experienced Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C). This is strongly linked to attempts to control female sexuality and prepare girls for marriage.
  • Family honour: Somali social norms are very sensitive about the protection of girls before marriage. Parents often marry off their daughters to protect them from sexual abuse on their way to and from school.
  • Armed conflict: Some Somali girls are raped by armed groups and forced to marry fighters. The UN reports that Al-Shabaab has been particularly complicit in forcing girls into marriage. Human Rights Watch highlights that member’s use child marriage as a tactic to impose a harsh version of Sharia on every aspect of the personal lives of women and girls. Many refugee families cited leaving Somalia due to fear of forced marriage, and one girl was decapitated because she resisted marriage.
  • Displacement: Girls living in internally displaced people’s (IDP) camps are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence and forced marriage.
  • Peer pressure: When one girl in a class or community marries, others often follow. This sometimes results in girls getting divorced, moving back home with their parents and “damaging” future marriage prospects.

What has this country committed to?

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

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

Somalia ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2015, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18. Somali is one of few countries that has not signed or ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

In 1991 Somalia signed the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, including Article 21 regarding the prohibition of child marriage.

In 2006 Somalia signed 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.

During its 2016 Universal Periodic Review, Somalia agreed to examine recommendations to counteract serious human rights violations of women and girls, including child marriage.

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 Somali Ministry of Women and Family Affairs has drafted legislation to protect children from child marriage and FGM/C. This has been forwarded to the Cabinet Minister but there has been no further progress as of April 2018.

The Ministry of Justice has trained some religious leaders on child marriage awareness and has provided them with templates to ensure proper documentation and action plans on minimising child marriages. It is also working to register sheikhs and provide licenses for the performance of nikahs to keep track of and control child marriage.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

Following amendment in 2012, the updated Somalian constitution provides that a person under the age of majority (18 years) cannot be married.

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)

Girl Summit 2014, The Girl Summit Charter on Ending FGM and Child, Early and Forced Marriage, [website], 2015, (accessed February 2018)

Human Rights Watch, No Place for Children Child Recruitment, Forced Marriage, and Attacks on Schools in Somali, 2012, (accessed March 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)

Save the Children, Preventing Child Marriage in Somaliland, 2016, (accessed April 2018)

UNICEF, Situational Analysis of Children in Somalia, 2016, (accessed April 2018)

UNICEF, Somalia Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2006, 2007, (accessed April 2018)

UNICEF, Study on Designing Social Protection Frameworks for Somalia, 2015, (accessed April 2018)

UNICEF, UNICEF Somalia Annual Report, 2016, (accessed April 2018)

UN General Assembly, Compilation prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in accordance with paragraph 15 (b) of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 5/1 and paragraph 5 of the annex to Council resolution 16/21 Somalia, 2015, p.24, (accessed April 2018)

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Somalia, 2016, (accessed April 2018)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Somalia, [website], 2018, (accessed April 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)