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Sudan

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
12%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
34%
International Ranking*

29

* 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: John Robinson | Human Rights Watch

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
12%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
34%
International Ranking*

29

* 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?

34% of girls in Sudan are married before the age of 18 and 12% are married before their 15th birthday.

According to UNICEF, Sudan has the 16th highest absolute number of child brides in the world – 640,000.

Child marriage is most prevalent in South and East Darfur (where 56% of women aged 20-49 were married before the age of 18), Central Darfur (55%), the Blue Nile (50%) and Gadarif (49%).

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 Sudan, child marriage is also driven by:

  • Poverty: 54% of women living in Sudan’s poorest households were married before the age of 18, compared to 19% in the richest households. Many families still negotiate mahr (the payment of money and gifts by a groom) during marriage contract processes, showing a financial incentive to marrying daughters young.
  • Level of education: 55% of women with no education were married before the age of 18, compared to only 3% who had completed higher education. Girls choosing to finish school are often stigmatised as agir (infertile) or bayra (not demanded for marriage) and the Sudanese curriculum does not empower girls to protect themselves from the harmful effects of child marriage.
  • Power dynamics: Almost 40% of currently married 15-19 year old girls are married to a man who is older than them by ten years or more. Girls rarely have a say in decisions regarding marriage.
  •  Pre-marital sex: Some families marry off their daughters when they reach puberty to safeguard their chastity and honour during a time when they are “developing sexual urges”.
  • Traditional customs: Many communities believe a girl is ready to marry when she reaches tamyeez (maturity), commonly interpreted as being ten years old. Younger girls are seen as more fertile and easier to socialise into obedience, which is inherent in the Beja silif system.
  • Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C): A 2016 study found that girls who have undergone FGM/C are at increased risk of marrying young.
  • Traditional attitudes: Whilst some younger, more educated tribal leaders approve of girls delaying marriage and going to school, older leaders often still encourage child marriage in compliance with tradition.

What has this country committed to?

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

Sudan co-sponsored the 2017 Human Rights Council resolution recognising the need to address child, early and forced marriage in humanitarian contexts. In 2014, Sudan signed a joint statement at the Human Rights Council calling for a resolution on child marriage.

Sudan ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18. Sudan is one of few countries not to have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

In 2015 Sudan launched the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa.

Sudan has not signed or ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and has made reservations regarding Article 21, committing state parties to ban child marriage.

In 2008 Sudan signed, but has not yet 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.

During its 2016 Universal Periodic Review, Sudan supported recommendations to raise the minimum age for marriage to comply with international child rights standards, and to establish a national action plan to prevent 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?

A national workshop on child marriage was organised by the National Council for Child Welfare, Women Centre for Human Rights, the National Council for Strategic Planning and UNICEF to develop a strategy framework to tackle child marriage. Following this, a national action plan is expected to be outlined.

The National Council for Child Welfare developed a national Child Marriage Abandonment Strategy in 2014, which is currently in the process of being endorsed by the Cabinet of Ministers.

Sudan’s National Child Act (2010) defines a child as being below the age of 18 and includes provisions for protecting children from all forms of discrimination. This has been used as a basis to advocate for a legal reform of the minimum age for marriage, but has been met by resistance from religious groups.

The Red Sea State Council of Child Welfare conducted educational sessions on child marriage at the local level, mostly in connection with abolishing FGM/C.

UNICEF argues that child marriage is not widely recognised as being an issue in Sudan as it is permitted by the law. This has limited the extent of national studies and responses.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

There is no legislation in Sudan to prohibit child marriage. The 2010 Child Act, for example, does not mention marriage in this context. Article 40 of the Muslim Personal Law 1991 cites that once a party is 10 years old, they may be married with the consent of their parent or guardian.

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)

African Union, Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa: Call to Action, 2013, (accessed February 2018)

El Nagar, Bamkar and Tonnessen, Girls, Child Marriage and Education in Red Sea State, Sudan: Perspectives on Girls’ Freedom to Choose, 2017, (accessed March 2018)

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

Ministry of Cabinet, Central Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF, SUDAN Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, 2014, (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)

UNICEF, Child Notice Sudan, 2016, (accessed March 2018)

UNICEF, Female Genital Mutilation and Child Marriage in Sudan – are there any Changes Taking Place?, 2016, (accessed March 2018)

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Sudan, 2016, p.15, p.17, (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)