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Tonga

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
n/a
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
n/a
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?

6% of girls in Tonga are married before their 18th birthday.

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 Tonga, but available data suggests that it is driven by:

  • Violence against girls: Some young girls are forced to marry perpetrators who rape them. This decision is largely driven by a girl’s family to prevent shame upon the family.
  • Family honour: Human Rights Watch reports that some girls are married off if they are seen with boys, in a bid to protect their honour.

What has this country committed to?

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

Tonga acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1995, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18. Tonga 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 2018, the UN in Tonga recommended that the government declare marriages taking place with people below the minimum legal age as void ab initio, meaning that they should have no legal basis under any pretext, including custom, religion and traditional practice. Furthermore, it recommended increasing punishment for perpetrators to be more commensurate with the seriousness of the offence.

During its 2018 Universal Periodic Review, Tonga supported recommendations to modify national legislation to prohibit child marriage and increase the minimum age of marriage to 18.

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

In May 2017, the Ministry of Justice launched the Let Girls be Girls campaign to end child marriage. The campaign is lobbying for the repeal of the Births, Deaths and Marriage Registration Act 1926 which states that children aged between 15 and 17 can get married with parental permission.
As of 2017, the Ministry of Justice is consulting on amendments to marriage laws, including raising the minimum legal age of marriage.
In 2016, Deputy Speaker of the House, Lord Tuʻiʻāfitu, told Parliament he is shocked by child marriage in Tonga and referred to the Parent Consent Act 1926 as “embarrassing”.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

Marriage is allowed for 15-17 year olds with parental consent under Section 6 of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act and Parent Consent Act 1926.

Source

Human Rights Watch, Time for Tonga to End Child Marriage, [website], 2017, (accessed March 2018)

Kaniva Tonga, Child marriage in Tonga “shocking,” Lord Tuʻiʻāfitu says, questions power of Tongan law, [website], 2016, (accessed March 2018)

Loop, Let Girls be Girls campaign gains support, [website], 2017, (accessed March 2018)

RNZ, Archaic’ Tongan law allows forced marriage to rapists, [website], 2016, (accessed March 2018)

Tonga Department of Statistics and Tonga Ministry of Health, Tonga Demographic and Health Survey, 2012, 2013, (accessed April 2018)

UN General Assembly, Compilation on Tonga Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2017, (accessed March 2018)

UN General Assembly, Draft report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Tonga, 2018, p.14, (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)