Child marriage by 15
Child marriage by 18
|Are there Girls Not Brides members?||5|
|Does this country have a national strategy or plan?||Yes|
|Is there a Girls Not Brides National Partnership or coalition?||No|
|Age of marriage without consent or exceptions taken into account||No minimum legal age of marriage (all exceptions taken into account)|
What's the prevalence rate?
The median age at first marriage is lowest in Batticaloa.
In Sri Lanka, child marriage can frequently take the form of long-term cohabitation, which are unions recognised by the community as equivalent to being married but are not legally registered.
What drives child marriage in Sri Lanka?
Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that women and girls are somehow inferior to men and boys.
In Sri Lanka, child marriage is also driven by:
Harmful traditional practices: Dowry continues to be commonly accepted in Sri Lanka. The practice of kaikuli among Muslim families (gifts given by the bride’s parents to the bridegroom) can reduce marriage to a “transaction” and dehumanise young girls forced to participate.
Violence against girls: Statutory rape and child marriage are closely linked in Sri Lanka. In such cases, marriage to the perpetrator is seen as a better option than risking being seen as “loose” or “immoral”. Child marriage is considered a better solution even though it means the loss of education and childhood for young girls. Marriages most frequently take the form of cohabitation and are legalised later, or (less frequently) families falsify documents to facilitate the marriage.
Family honour: According to a 2013 UNICEF study, some families marry off or agree to a cohabitation agreement with a young girl, as a way of “safeguarding” the honour of the girl and the family once the relationship between their daughter and an older man has became public knowledge.
Natural disasters:According to Plan, some girls were pressured into marriages with widowers and as a way to cope with the consequences following the 2004 tsunami.
Armed conflict: In former conflict areas in the North and East of Sri Lanka, child marriage continues. Some families marry off their daughters for physical and financial protection.
What international, regional and national commitments has Sri Lanka made?
Sri Lanka has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. However the government did not report on progress made against target 5.3 during its 2018 Voluntary National Review at the High Level Political Forum, the mechanism through which countries report their progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.
Sri Lanka ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1981, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.
In 2017, the CEDAW Committee recommended in its Concluding Observations that Sri Lanka increases the minimum age of marriage for all women in the State party to 18 years of age. In 2010 and 2018 the Committee on the Rights of the Child urged Sri Lanka to increase the minimum age of marriage, including by amending the Constitution.
During its 2017 Universal Periodic Review, Sri Lanka supported recommendations to review the absence of a minimum age for marriage under Muslim law.
Sri Lanka is a member of the South Asian Initiative to End Violence against Children (SAIEVAC) which adopted a regional action plan to end child marriage from 2015-2018.
Representatives of the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), including Sri Lanka, asserted the Kathmandu Call to Action to End Child Marriage in Asia in 2014. As part of its commitment, Sri Lanka will ensure access to legal remedies for child brides and establish a uniform minimum legal age of marriage of 18.
Sri Lanka country is a Pathfinder Country of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children.
What is the government doing to address child marriage?
In 2016 the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs launched the National Action Plan to Address Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2016 – 2020. It was produced in collaboration with civil society groups and UN agencies, and includes plans to combat child sexual exploitation, including the prevention of early marriage.
In 2019, the government of Sri Lanka was due to launch a costed National Action Plan on child sexual exploitation and abuse with the support of Save the Children, which is meant to include the implementation of the law to address child marriage.
What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?
There are conflicts between the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act and secular laws on marriage in Sri Lanka.
The General Marriage Registration Ordinance 1997 sets the minimum age of marriage at 18, although a minor may still be married with the consent of parties.
The Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act has no minimum legal age of marriage and allows children under the age of 12 to be married where special approval is given by quazis (magistrate or judge of a Sharia court).
There has been ongoing debate and campaigning by civil society organisations and women’s rights activists to reform the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act to bring it in line with national and international standard on issues including child marriage.
A Committee appointed in 2009 by the Minister of Justice to propose reforms to the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, released a report in 2019 including recommendations to increase the legal age of marriage for girls and boys to 18.
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- Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Concluding observations on the eighth periodic report of Sri Lanka, CEDAW/C/LKA/CO/8, 2017, p. 14, https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CEDAW%2fC%2fLKA%2fCO%2f8&Lang=en (accessed December 2019).
- Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations on the combined fifth and sixth periodic reports of Sri Lanka, CRC/C/LKA/CO/5-6, 2018, p. 7-8, http://docstore.ohchr.org/SelfServices/FilesHandler.ashx?enc=6QkG1d%2fPPRiCAqhKb7yhsielGx7SihWhGe2DDQs2oa3sf3DVocPZ6t2fN0WRVx92GNJlQbMTGN7krzrvJ20SQ1Q8YUgf0XjXVWL1YL2umcQXoXRlpHnUUEfC5wKucoHO (accessed December 2019).
- Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations: Sri Lanka, 2010, p. 14-15, http://www.refworld.org/publisher,CRC,CONCOBSERVATIONS,LKA,4cdcfb112,0.html (accessed December 2019).
- Department of Census and Statistics, Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs, and Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine September, Demographic and Health Survey 2016, 2017, https://www.aidsdatahub.org/sites/default/files/publication/SriLanka_DHS_2016.pdf (accessed December 2019).
- ECPAT Sri Lanka and Protecting Environment and Children Everywhere, Alternative Report Submitted for the Examination of Sri Lanka’s State Party’s Fifth and Sixth Combined periodic Report under Article 44 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 2017, http://www.ecpat.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/2017-%E2%80%93-Sri-Lanka-CRC-Alternative-Report.pdf (accessed December 2019).
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Gender and Land Rights Database - Sri Lanka, [website] http://www.fao.org/gender-landrights-database/country-profiles/countries-list/customary-law/en/?country_iso3=LKA (accessed December 2019).
- Girl Not Brides, Kathmandu Call to Action to End Child Marriage in Asia, [website], 2014, https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/learning-resources/resource-centre/kathmandu-call-action-end-child-marriage-south-asia/ (accessed December 2019).
- Girls Not Brides, Ending Child Marriage in South Asia: A regional action Plan, [website], 2016, https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/articles/child-marriage-south-asia-regional-plan/ (accessed December 2019).
- Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, Sri Lanka, [website], https://www.end-violence.org/impact/countries/sri-lanka (accessed December 2019).
- Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, Sri Lanka, 2018, https://www.end-violence.org/sites/default/files/paragraphs/download/Country%20Progress%20Fact%20Sheet%20Sri%20Lanka.pdf (accessed December 2019).
- Goonesekere, S., and Amarasuriya, H., Emerging Concerns and Case Studies on Child Marriage in Sri Lanka, United Nations Children’s Fund Sri Lanka, Colombo, 2013, http://www.iccwtnispcanarc.org/upload/pdf/2501970655EMERGING%20CONCERNS%20AND%20CASE%20STUDIES%20ON%20CHILD%20MARRIAGE%20IN%20SRI%20ANKA%20%20.pdf (accessed December 2019).
- Ministry of Women and Child Affairs, Policy Framework and National Plan of Action to address Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Sri Lanka 2016-2020, 2016, http://www.lk.undp.org/content/srilanka/en/home/library/poverty/Policy-Framework-and-National-Plan-of-Action-to-address-SGBV-in-SriLanka.html (accessed December 2019).
- Plan Canada and CEO Notebook, Ending Child Marriage – A Challenge to the Commonwealth, 2011, [unpublished]
- Plan International, Because I Am a Girl: The state of the world’s girls 2013. In Double Jeopardy: Adolescent girls and disasters, https://plan-international.org/publications/state-worlds-girls-2013-adolescent-girls-and-disasters#download-options (accessed December 2019).
- South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children, [website], 2018, http://www.saievac.org/ (accessed December 2019).
- The Women and Media Collective Colombo, Sri Lanka Shadow Report to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, 2010, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/docs/ngo/WMD_SriLanka48.pdf (accessed December 2019).
- UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Sri Lanka, 2017, p.18, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/LKIndex.aspx (accessed December 2019).
- United Nations Children’s Fund and United Nations Population Fund, Child Marriage in South Asia: An evidence review, 2019, https://www.unicef.org/rosa/reports/ending-child-marriage-south-asia (accessed December 2019).
- United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg5 (accessed December 2019).
- Verité Research, Reforming the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, 2018, https://www.veriteresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Verité-Brief_Muslim-Marriage-and-Divorce-Act.pdf (accessed December 2019).
- Women and Media Collective, NGO Parallel Report: Progress Across The 12 Critical Areas Of Concern Country Report – Sri Lanka, 2019, https://www.ngocsw.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Sri-Lanka-CSO-report.pdf (accessed December 2019).