Child marriage by 15
Child marriage by 18
Other key stats
|Are there Girls Not Brides members?||4|
|Does this country have a national strategy or plan?||Developing|
|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?
34% of girls in Sudan are married before the age of 18 and 12% are married before their 15th birthday.
Sudan has the 16th highest absolute number of women married or in a union before the age of 18 in the world – 684,000.
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%).
What drives child marriage in Sudan?
Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that girls are somehow inferior to boys. In Sudan, child marriage is exacerbated 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). Parents place little value in their daughters’ education and girls are often perceived as better able to support her family when a husband pays a bride price for her marriage.
Harmful traditional practices: Many communities believe a girl is ready to marry when she reaches tamyeez (maturity), commonly interpreted as being ten years old.
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. Child marriage is also reinforced by the belief that girls should give birth whilst they are young and younger women make better mothers and are easier to socialise into obedience, which is inherent in the Beja silif
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”.
Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C): 87% of women in Sudan have undergone FGM. A 2016 UNICEF study found that girls who have undergone FGM/C are at increased risk of marrying young.
Religion: In Sudan, child marriage is assumed to be deeply rooted in Islamic principles.
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.
What international, regional and national commitments has Sudan made?
Sudan has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. The government did not provide an update on progress towards this target during its Voluntary National Review at the 2018 High Level Political Forum.
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).
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.
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.
In 2015 Sudan launched the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa.
In 2019, at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, Sudan committed to zero sexual and gender-based violence, including zero child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
At the London Girl Summit in July 2014, the government signed a charter committing to end child marriage by 2020.
Sudan is a partner country of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).
What is the government doing to address child marriage?
In 2018, the case of Noura Hussein sparked international outcry. She was sentenced to death in May 2018 for killing the man she was forced to marry, as he tried to rape her the second time. While in June 2018 the court of appeal overturned her death sentence in favour of five years’ imprisonment, her case highlights the link between child marriage and violence against women and girls.
The National Council for Child Welfare developed a national Child Marriage Abandonment Strategy in 2014. However, as of March 2020 the Strategy is still pending endorsement by the Cabinet of Ministers. As reported by UNICEF, national responses to child marriage are being hold back because it is not widely recognised as being an issue as it believed to be deeply rooted in Islamic principles and is permitted by the law.
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.
Since 2013, the Kassala State Council of Child Welfare has reportedly engaged in a campaign to abandon the practice of child marriage. The campaign aims at raising community awareness about the harmful effects of the practice through the capacity building of volunteers who then advocate in local communities and media outlets.
What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?
There is no minimum age of marriage in Sudan.
The Sudan Personal Status Law of Muslims, 1994 states that a guardian can give a woman in marriage once she has reached puberty and from age 10 with a permission of a judge.
We have 4 members in Sudan
Content featuring Sudan
Child marriage in the Middle-East and North Africa
This study explores child marriage in the Middle-East and North Africa and provides recommendations on how to better address it.
Ending sex discrimination in the law
Looks at sex discriminatory laws around the world, including minimum age of marriage, domestic violence & rape laws, and provides contact information for those who wish to act
Gender and child rights in eastern Africa: a survey of laws and policies on child marriage, economic exploitation and inheritance
This report by the African Child Policy Forum examines the interaction of gender and child rights in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Sudan.
Ending child marriage in the Arab region
Presents latest data on child marriage in the Arab region, which includes members of the League of Arab States (stretching from Morocco to Oman). Explains how ending child marriage would…
- 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 March 2020).
- El Nagar, Bamkar and Tonnessen, Girls, Child Marriage and Education in Red Sea State, Sudan: Perspectives on Girls’ Freedom to Choose, 2017, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/6326-girls-child-marriage.pdf (accessed March 2020).
- El Nagar, Mahjoub, Idris, and Tønnessen, Community Views on Child Marriage in Kassala: Prospects for Change, 2018, https://www.cmi.no/publications/6438-community-views-on-child-marriage-in-kassala (accessed March 2020).
- 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 March 2020).
- Girls Not Brides, Noura Hussein’s story highlights the link between child marriage and violence, [website], 2018, https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/articles/noura-husseins-story-highlights-the-link-between-child-marriage-and-violence/ (accessed March 2020).
- Global Partnership for Education, Sudan, [website], https://www.globalpartnership.org/where-we-work/sudan (accessed March 2020).
- Ministry of Cabinet, Central Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF, SUDAN Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, 2014, http://mics.unicef.org/files?job=W1siZiIsIjIwMTYvMDUvMTgvMjEvNTkvNTEvODg3L1N1ZGFuXzIwMTRfTUlDU19FbmdsaXNoLnBkZiJdXQ&sha=32907fc39e6e2e6e (accessed March 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 March 2020).
- Nairobi Summit, Sudan National Commitments to ICPD25, [website], 2019, http://www.nairobisummiticpd.org/commitment/sudan-national-committments-icpd25 (accessed March 2020).
- UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Sudan, 2016, p.15, p.17, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/SDindex.aspx (accessed March 2020).
- UNICEF DATA, Female genital mutilation (FGM), February 2020, https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-protection/female-genital-mutilation/ (accessed March 2020).
- UNICEF DATA, Sudan, [website], https://data.unicef.org/crvs/sudan/ (accessed March 2020).
- UNICEF Middle East and North Africa Regional Office in collaboration with the International Center for Research on Women (IRCW), UNICEF Regional Study on Child Marriage In the Middle East and North Africa - SUDAN Country Brief, 2017, https://www.unicef.org/mena/media/1816/file/MENA-CMReport-SudanBrief.pdf.pdf (accessed March 2020).
- UNICEF, Child Notice Sudan, 2016, https://www.unicef.nl/files/unicef-child-notice-soedan-en.pdf (accessed March 2020).
- UNICEF, Female Genital Mutilation and Child Marriage in Sudan – are there any changes taking place?, 2016, https://www.unicef.org/sudan/media/1071/file (accessed March 2020).
- 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 March 2020).