Child marriage by 15
Child marriage by 18
Other key stats
|Are there Girls Not Brides members?||12|
|Does this country have a national strategy or plan?||No|
|Is there a Girls Not Brides National Partnership or coalition?||No|
|Age of marriage without consent or exceptions taken into account||Minimum legal age of marriage below 18 years|
What's the prevalence rate?
What drives child marriage in Liberia?
Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that women and girls are somehow inferior to men and boys. In Liberia, child marriage is also driven by:
Poverty: Girls in Liberia’s poorest households are more likely to marry as children than those in the richest households.
Level of education: Liberian girls with no education are more likely to marry before the age of 18.
Harmful traditional practices: As reported by UNICEF in 2012, some communities mark a girl’s social transition from childhood to adolescence through initiation ceremonies. These are conducted by female sande secret societies that are responsible for initiating girls into adulthood, and mark their readiness to enter into unions with men.
Violence against girls: According to the same 2012 UNICEF study, some Liberian girls are married off to male “protectors” soon after puberty with the misguided perception that this will shield them from exposure to sexual predators. This is a customary practice that is particularly common during times of conflict.
Adolescent pregnancy: In 2016, 34% of girls in Liberia aged 15-19 were already mothers or were pregnant. Pregnancy out of wedlock can initiate an early marriage.
What international, regional and national commitments has Liberia made?
Liberia has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Liberia co-sponsored the 2015 Human Rights Council resolution to end child, early and forced marriage, recognising that it is a violation of human rights.
Liberia co-sponsored the 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2018 UN General Assembly resolutions on child, early and forced marriage, and signed a joint statement at the 2014 Human Rights Council calling for a resolution on child marriage.
Liberia ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1993, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1984, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.
During its 2015 Universal Periodic Review, Liberia agreed to examine recommendations to combat child marriage and increase support for girls in rural areas and from the poorest households who are most at risk.
In December 2016, Liberia became the 18th country to launch the African Union campaign to end child marriage in Africa under the theme “We are children, not wives, save us from child marriage”.
In 2007 Liberia ratified, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, including Article 21 regarding the prohibition of child marriage.
In 2007 Liberia 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.
As a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in 2017 Liberia adopted the Strategic Framework for Strengthening National Child Protection Systems under which protecting children from marriage is a priority. In June 2019, the ECOWAS Heads of State endorsed the ECOWAS Child Policy and Strategic Action Plan and the 2019-2030 Roadmap on prevention and response to child marriage.
In addition, in July 2019, the ECOWAS First Ladies signed “The Niamey Declaration: Call to End Child Marriage and to promote the Education and empowerment of Girls”, calling Member States to initiate legislative, institutional and budgetary reforms to implement the Roadmap.
Liberia is one of the countries where the Spotlight Initiative (a global, multi-year partnership between European Union and United Nations) is supporting efforts to end all forms of sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices against women and girls.
Liberia is a partner country of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).
What is the government doing to address child marriage?
In December 2016, the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection officially launched a campaign to end child marriage in the country. There is limited information on the governmental efforts to end child marriage in the context of this campaign.
In 2019, after a series of nationwide consultative dialogues organised by the National Council of Chiefs and Elders of Liberia with traditional leaders, and supported by UNFPA and the Embassy of Sweden, the Traditional Leaders of Liberia committed to ending child marriage and teenage pregnancy, and to ensuring that girls are given the chance to education without any form of obstruction in the name of tradition and culture.
What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?
According to the Domestic Relations Law, 1973, the legal age of marriage for girls is 18 years and 21 years for boys. For those under the minimum legal ages, but over the age of 16 years, the consent of a parent, guardian or judge is required for marriage.
The marriage of a child under the age of 16 is prohibited both under civil and customary law.
We have 12 members in Liberia
Content featuring Liberia
Girls’ education and child marriage
Brief exploring the key facts, two-way impacts, common drivers and solutions on education and child marriage. Updated in September 2022.
How are young people leading change to end child marriage in Liberia?
Child marriage in West & Central Africa
This brief provides an overview of child marriage in West and Central Africa and includes recommendations on how to address it.
Vows of poverty. 26 countries where child marriage eclipses girls' education
CARE ranks the 26 countries where girls are more likely to be married before the age of 18 than enrolled in secondary school.
- African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, [website], 2018, https://www.achpr.org/legalinstruments/detail?id=46 (accessed January 2020).
- 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, https://au.int/en/treaties/protocol-african-charter-human-and-peoples-rights-rights-women-africa (accessed January 2020).
- 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 2020).
- ECOWAS, ECOWAS First Ladies affirm Commitment to End Child Marriage and Promote Girl-Child Education in the Region, [website], 2019, https://www.ecowas.int/ecowas-first-ladies-affirm-commitment-to-end-child-marriage-and-promote-girl-child-education-in-the-region/ (accessed February 2020).
- ECOWAS, Final Communique. Fifty-fifth Ordinary Session of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, 2019, https://www.ecowas.int/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Final-Communiqué_55th-Summit_Abuja_29-June-2019-1.pdf (accessed February 2020).
- Girls Not Brides, Liberia Launches the African Union Campaign To End Child Marriage, [website], 2017, https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/articles/liberia-launches-african-union-campaign-end-child-marriage/ (accessed February 2020).
- Global Partnership for Education, Liberia, [website], https://www.globalpartnership.org/where-we-work/liberia (accessed February 2020).
- Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Liberia: The Sande secret society, its activities, organization, leaders and consequences of refusing the role of leader; Sande's power, its treatment of those who speak out against or oppose its practices; state protection for individuals threatened by Sande, 2017, https://www.refworld.org/docid/58cff6114.html (accessed February 2020).
- Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, National AIDS Control Program and ICF International, Liberia Demographic and Health Survey 2013, 2014, https://dhsprogram.com/what-we-do/survey/survey-display-435.cfm (accessed February 2020).
- 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 February 2020).
- OECD Social Institutions & Gender Index, Liberia, 2019, https://www.genderindex.org/wp-content/uploads/files/datasheets/2019/LR.pdf (accessed February 2020).
- Spotlight Initiative, Liberia, [website], https://spotlightinitiative.org/liberia-1 (accessed February 2020).
- The World Bank, Teenage mothers (% of women ages 15-19 who have had children or are currently pregnant) - Liberia, [website], https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.MTR.1519.ZS?locations=LR (accessed February 2020).
- UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Liberia,2015, p.20, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/LRindex.aspx (accessed February 2020).
- UNFPA Liberia, Traditional Leaders in Liberia Commit to Ending Child Marriage, [website], 2019, https://liberia.unfpa.org/en/news/traditional-leaders-liberia-commit-ending-child-marriage (accessed February 2020).
- UNICEF, The Situation of Children and Women in Liberia 2012, From Conflict to Peace, 2012.
- UNICEF global databases 2020, based on Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), and other national surveys. Population data from United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2019). World Population Prospects 2019, Online Edition. Rev. 1.
- United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg5 (accessed February 2020).