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Uganda

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
10%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
40%
International Ranking*

16

* 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)

Credit photo: Jessica Vassie | Girls Not Brides

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
10%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
40%
International Ranking*

16

* 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?

40% of girls in Uganda are married before their 18th birthday and one in 10 is married before the age of 15.

According to UNICEF, Uganda has the 16th highest prevalence rate of child marriage in the world and the tenth highest absolute number of child brides globally – 787,000.

Customary marriages or informal marriages, where a girl lives with an older man, are more common than registered civil or religious marriages.

11% of currently married 15-19 year old girls are married to men who have more than one wife.

A 2017 World Bank study shows that ending child marriage in Uganda could generate USD514 million in earnings and productivity.

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 Uganda, child marriage is also driven by:

  • Level of education: Some parents in Uganda feel that educating a girl is a waste of time and resources when she will ultimately marry and gain lifelong security.
  • Poverty: Girls living in Uganda’s poorest households marry at a younger age than those living in the richest households. Some parents see their daughter as a source of wealth as she can fetch bride price from her husband’s family when she marries.
  • Family honour: Some families, especially in traditional ethnic communities, marry off their daughters to protect them from early sexual encounters and safeguard the family’s dignity.
  • Peer pressure: Pressure from friends to marry, and early exposure to pornography and “experimentation” in adult relationships, have been highlighted as drivers of child marriage in Uganda.
  • Displacement: Uganda hosts some of the largest numbers of refugees in the world, including from South Sudan, the DRC and Ethiopia. A 2016 study among internally displaced Ugandans in Mucwini, northern Uganda, and Congolese refugees in Nakivale settlement, found that child marriage provides families with legal protection from defilement (sex with a girl under 18) which is a crime in Uganda. Within the camps, child marriages are organised in a hasty manner.
  • Basic needs: Some Ugandan girls marry in order to access sanitary products. Some parents attribute child marriage to moral decay and a “greed” for material things.
  • Traditional customs: A 2013 study in Mayuge, eastern Uganda, found that local communities perceived girls to be ready for marriage when they develop breasts. Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C) is also considered a sign of readiness for marriage.
  • Adolescent pregnancy: In many Ugandan cultures, pre-marital pregnancy is associated with embarrassment, disgrace and curse, which drives some girls to marry. Some girls in Mucwini reported that girls have to “prove” fertility for a boy to marry them.

What has this country committed to?

Uganda has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. During its Voluntary National Review at the 2016 High Level Political Forum, the government provided baseline data on the situation for child marriage.

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

Uganda ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1985, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

Uganda is a focus country of the UNICEF-UNFPA Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage, a multi-donor, multi-stakeholder programme working across 12 countries over four years.

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

In 1994, Uganda ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, including Article 21 regarding the prohibition of child marriage.

In 2010, Uganda 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.

Uganda 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 Universal Periodic Review, Uganda supported recommendations to implement the action plan to more effectively combat 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?

In 2015, the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development launched the National Strategy on Ending Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy (2014/15-2019/20), which was developed in partnership with Girls Not Brides members and UN agencies. The strategy has been implemented in 30 districts and an additional 51 districts have been allocated funds to implement Child Marriage Action Plans.

Uganda is a Pathfinder country for the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, and one of 11 countries working to create child marriage-free communities by 2020 as part of the Her Choice Alliance.

Numerous other policies have addressed child marriage, including:

  • The National Development Plan 2010-2014/15, which acknowledged that child marriage affects early pregnancies and poor health outcomes for Ugandan women and children, and committed to delay marriages through expanding basic education.
  • The Gender in Education Policy (2009), which pledged to facilitate the re-entry of girls who drop out of school as a result of child marriage.
  • The National Population Policy (2008), which acknowledged the harmful cultural practices driving child marriage and the need to address them.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

Under the Children Act 2016 the minimum legal age of marriage is 18 years with no exceptions.

Source

African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, [website], 2018, http://www.achpr.org/instruments/child/ratification (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, http://www.achpr.org/instruments/women-protocol/ (accessed February 2018)

African Union, Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa: Call to Action, 2013,
https://au.int/sites/default/files/pages/32905-file-campaign_to_end_child_marriage_in_africa_call_for_action-_english.pdf (accessed February 2018)

Girl Summit 2014, The Girl Summit Charter on Ending FGM and Child, Early and Forced Marriage, [website], 2015, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/459236/Public_Girl_Summit_Charter_with_Signatories.pdf (accessed February 2018)

Her Choice, Programme, [website], 2018, http://www.her-choice.org/en/her-choice/programme/ (accessed March 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, http://youngpeopletoday.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/ESA-Commitment-FINAL-Affirmed-on-7th-December.pdf (accessed February 2018)

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Joint statement on child, early and forced marriage, HRC 27, Agenda Item 3, [website], 2014,
http://fngeneve.um.dk/en/aboutus/statements/newsdisplaypage/?newsid=6371ad93-8fb0-4c35-b186-820fa996d379 (accessed April 2018)

Overseas Development Institute, Adolescent girls and gender justice: Understanding key capability domains in Uganda, 2013, https://www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/odi-assets/publications-opinion-files/8822.pdf (accessed March 2018)

Overseas Development Institute, Adolescent girls in the balance: Changes and continuity in social norms and practices around marriage and education in Uganda, 2014, https://www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/odi-assets/publications-opinion-files/9180.pdf (accessed March 2018)

Republic of Uganda, NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN (2010/11 – 2014/15), 2010, http://npa.ug/wp-content/themes/npatheme/documents/NDP2.pdf (accessed March 2018)

Republic of Uganda, REVIEW REPORT ON UGANDA’S READINESS FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF THE 2030 AGENDA, 2016, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/10689Uganda%20Review%20Report_CDs1.pdf (accessed March 2018)

Republic of Uganda and UNICEF, THE NATIONAL STRATEGY TO END CHILD MARRIAGE AND TEENAGE PREGNANCY 2014/2015 – 2019/2020, 2015, https://www.unicef.org/uganda/NATIONAL_STRATEGY_ON_CHILD_MARRIAGE-PRINT_READY.pdf (accessed March 2018)

Richard Sekiwunga and Susan Reynolds Whyte, Poor Parenting: Teenagers’ Views on Adolescent Pregnancies in Eastern Uganda, 2009, https://www.jstor.org/stable/27802628?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents (accessed March 2018)

The Independent, Underage girls in Uganda being forced into child marriages because they cannot afford sanitary products, [website], 2017, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/uganda-underage-marriages-sanitary-pads-hygiene-products-menstruation-a8016651.html (accessed March 2018)

Uganda Bureau of Statistics, Uganda Demographic and Health Survey, 2011, 2012, https://dhsprogram.com/pubs/pdf/fr264/fr264.pdf (accessed March 2018)

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Uganda, 2016, p.15, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UGindex.aspx (accessed March 2018)

United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg5 (accessed February 2018)

United States Agency for International Development, ADDRESSING EARLY MARRIAGE IN UGANDA, 2009, http://www.culturalpractice.com/wp-content/downloads/3-2009-14.pdf (accessed March 2018)

Women’s Refugee Commission, A Girl No More: The Changing Norms of Child Marriage in Conflict, 2016, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Changing-Norms-of-Child-Marriage-in-Conflict.pdf (accessed March 2018)

World Bank, Accelerating Uganda’s Development: Ending Child Marriage, Educating Girls, 2017, http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/553381512398131516/pdf/121848-REVISED-UEU-10-Full-report.pdf (accessed March 2018)

World Bank and International Center for Research on Women, Economic Impacts of Child Marriage: Global Synthesis Report, 2017, http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/530891498511398503/pdf/116829-WP-P151842-PUBLIC-EICM-Global-Conference-Edition-June-27.pdf (accessed March 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)

National Partnership in Uganda

Girls Not Brides Uganda is the official Girls Not Brides National Partnership in Uganda.

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