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South Africa

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
1%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
6%

* 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
1%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
6%

* 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 2003 shows that 6% of girls in South Africa are married before the age of 18 and 1% are married before their 15th birthday.
Rates may be higher as customary marriages are rarely officially registered.

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.

There is very limited information on child marriage in South Africa.

The traditional practice of ukuthwala sees girls as young as 12 married off to older men, and still reportedly occurs in Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces. In many cases this is justified on the basis that some money or gifts are given to parents in a distortion of traditional ilobolo (dowry) practices.

What has this country committed to?

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

South Africa signed a joint statementat the 2014 Human Rights Council calling for a resolution on child marriage.

South Africa ratified 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 1995, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

In 2000 South Africa ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, including Article 21 regarding the prohibition of child marriage.

In 2004 South Africa 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.

South Africa 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 review, the UN Child Rights Committee expressed deep concerns about the persistence of child marriage, virginity testing and ukuthwala. It also raised concerns that the Children’s Act of 2005 sets the minimum age of marriage at 12 for girls, and that the Marriage Act of 1961 and the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act of 1998, set different conditions for marriages of girls under the age of 18. The Committee urged the South African government to harmonise legislation in order to ensure the minimum age of marriage is 18 for both girls and boys.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

Under the Children’s Act 2005 the minimum legal age of marriage is 18 years for girls and boys. However inconsistencies and loopholes exist through the Marriage Act 25 of 1961, Recognition of Customary Marriage Act 120 of 1998, the Civil Union Act 17 of 2006 and
the Criminal Law Amendment Act (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 37 of 2007 which allows marriage before the age of 18 years under different circumstances.

In 2015 the President promulgated the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill that prohibits nonconsensual ukuthwala and classifies it as a trafficking offence.

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)

Department of Health, Medical Research Council and OrcMacro, South Africa Demographic and Health Survey 2003, 2007, (accessed May 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)

The Conversation, Banning child and forced marriages is gaining traction in Africa, [website], 2016,

UN Child Rights Committee, Concluding observations on the second periodic report of South Africa, 2016, p.5, p.10, (accessed May 2018)

United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, (accessed February 2018)

United States State Department Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017, South Africa, 2018, (accessed May 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)