Child marriage by 15
Child marriage by 18
|Are there Girls Not Brides members?||123|
|Does this country have a national strategy or plan?||Yes|
|Is there a Girls Not Brides National Partnership or coalition?||Yes|
|Age of marriage without consent or exceptions taken into account||Legal age of marriage - 18 years, no exceptions|
What's the prevalence rate?
6% of boys are married before their 18th birthday.
Customary marriages or informal marriages, where a girl lives with an older man, are significantly more common than registered civil or religious marriages. In addition, 10.6% of currently married 15-19 years old girls are married to men who have two or more wives.
A World Bank/ICRW study estimated that ending child marriage in Uganda would generate USD 14.48 million in earnings for Ugandan women who married early.
What drives child marriage in Uganda?
Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that girls are somehow inferior to boys.
In Uganda, child marriage is exacerbated by:
Poverty and lack of opportunities: Girls living in Uganda’s poorest households marry at a younger age than those living in the richest households. Some parents, especially in rural areas, see their daughter as a source of wealth as they can fetch bride pricefrom the husband’s family, while relieving the financial burden on the family. In highly vulnerable households, some Ugandan girls seek marriage to cover basic needs, such as sanitary products.
Level of education:Early marriage and teenage pregnancy are linked to low levels of secondary school retention for girls. 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.
Harmful practices:Arranged marriages for girls are common, often as a way to consolidate powerful relations among families. Some families marry off their daughters to protect them from early sexual encounters and safeguard the family’s dignity. Studies have also found that communities perceived girls to be ready for marriage when they develop breasts or when they have started menstruating. Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C) is also considered a sign of readiness for marriage.
Adolescent pregnancy: Adolescent pregnancyprecipitates child marriage and is also a consequence of it. Uganda has one the highestrates ofadolescent pregnancy in the world, which is the result of both consensual and forced sex. Girls who become pregnant while still in school are often forced to drop out. Without education, and because pregnancy outside of marriage is stigmatised and associated with embarrassment or disgrace, they and their parents may see marriage as the only option – for both the girl and the boy or man who impregnates her.
Intergenerational and transactional relationships: These are relatively common in Uganda. For some girls, having a man, typically older, who is able to provide food, clothing, school fees and other material goods is seen as desirable and an escape route out of poverty. In many cases, these relationships are seen as consensual but, in reality girls may find themselves vulnerable with regard to such relationships, which can lead to long term arrangements including child marriage and early motherhood.
Orphanhood: In Uganda, orphaned girls have greater odds of early marriage. 32% of households in Uganda have foster or orphaned children. Caregivers of orphaned or foster children who find it difficult to meet the needs of the family may resort to early marriage to relieve financial pressures. Additionally, girls in households headed by children (below age 18) are more vulnerable to being married early than those in households headed by adults.
COVID-19: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on some of the poorest households and has exacerbated the vulnerability of children. The pandemic exposed vulnerable families to loss of financial income pushing them further into poverty and exclusion. The pandemic has exacerbated adolescent pregnancy and child marriage in Uganda.
Humanitarian settings can encompass a wide range of situations before, during, and after natural disasters, conflicts, and epidemics. They exacerbate poverty, insecurity, and lack of access to services such as education. These factors can drive child marriage and, often in times of crisis, families see child marriage as a way to cope with greater economic hardship and to protect girls from increased violence.
In 2019, Uganda hosted more than 1.3 million refugees, making it the country with the largest refugee population in Africa. As well as internally displaced Ugandans, most refugees come from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan, and Burundi.
Displacement: child marriage is reportedly more prevalent among those internally displaced and refugees. A 2016 study among internally displaced Ugandans 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.
What international, regional and national commitments has Uganda made?
Uganda has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. In its 2016 Voluntary National Review, Uganda provided baseline data on the situation for child marriage.
The government submitted a Voluntary National Review at the 2020 High Level Political Forum. In this report, the Government reiterated its commitments to end child marriage in Uganda through the National Strategy.
The government established toll-free national Child Helplines to address and track cases of child abuse and gender-based violence. In 2018-2019, a total of 200,185 call were received of which 107,871 (99%) were resolved and closed, of these cases 2% were child marriage cases. Ending child marriage could generate $3 billion per year for Uganda by 2030
Uganda co-sponsored the 2013, 2014, 2018 and 2020 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.
During its 2021 Universal Periodic Review, the government reaffirmed its efforts to put in place policies to ensure the National Strategy to end child Marriage and teenage pregnancy, 2015-2020; Guidelines on Prevention of Teenage Pregnancy and Re-entry of Teenage Mothers in School 2020.
During its 2016 Universal Periodic Review, Uganda supported recommendations to implement the action plan to more effectively combat child marriage.
During its 2022 review, the CEDAW Committee welcomed the improvement of institutional and policy framework aimed at eliminating discrimination against women and promoting gender equality such as the adoption of the National Strategy to end child marriage and teenage pregnancy 2014/15 – 2019/20. The Committee raised concern at the occurrence of child marriages, particularly in religious, refugee and traditional communities and recommended that Uganda harmonize religious, civil and customary laws in the area of marriage to prohibit child marriage.
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.
In 2015 Uganda launched the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa.
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.
At the London Girl Summit in July 2014, the government signed a chartercommitting to end child marriage by 2020.
In 2019, at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, Uganda committed to remove the obstacles that stand in the way of girls’ empowerment, including teenage pregnancy and child marriage, through education reform and reproductive health and family planning services.
Uganda 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. Between 2019 – 2020, the European Union invested $31 million USD. The funds were distributed as follows:
Policy: Uniting civil society organizations, religious and cultural leaders, refugees and women’s rights defenders to assess, develop and implement policies and legislation such as the Domestic Violence Act.
Institution: Working with Social Development Sector Plan to prioritize gender issues and facilitate the delivery of the Children’s Act that brings sexual education to youth.
Prevention: Engaging in holistic, gender-transformative approaches that shift attitudes and practices that redefine power relations at community, organizational and societal levels by using the Gender Roles Equality and Transformation toolkit.
Data: Strengthening existing data management systems to analyse data on violence against women and girls, harmful practices, sexual and reproductive rights to inform laws, policies and programmes.
Women’s movement and civil society: Investing in women’s movement to empower women and adolescent girls through advocacy initiatives.
Uganda is also one of the countries where the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)/DREAMS Initiative is working to reduce rates of HIV among adolescent girls and young women.
Uganda is a pathfinder country for the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children and a partner country of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).
Uganda is also one of 11 countries working to create child marriage-free communities by 2020 as part of the Her Choice Alliance.
What is the government doing to address child marriage?
In the Abim district in north-eastern Uganda, the Agile Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescent Club (ELA), empowers adolescent girls by providing them life skills, including topics such as the prevention of adolescent pregnancy, child marriage, family planning, menstrual hygiene, sexual and reproductive health rights and gender-based violence.
In 2021, 300 clubs were formed, hosting 11,000 adolescent girls in Karamoja sub-region. These clubs are facilitated and supported by UNFPA and BRAC Uganda, and receives funding from the European Union Spotlight Initiative, Embassy of Sweden, Austrian Development Agency, and the United Nations Joint Programme on Gender-Based Violence.
In July 2021, UNFPA and Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU) launched a pilot camp in Amuru district to eradicate child marriage in 13 of the most high-prevalence districts namely, Moroto, Kween, Okollo Tororo, Kampala, Madi, Kapchorwa, Amuru, Amudat Kyegegwa, Kitgum, Amuria, Arua and Kasese. These camps provide free reproductive training, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, counselling, HIV information, cervical screening and gender-based violence.
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. In 2018, the strategy was spread to 113 sub-counties in 15 districts, all of which made commitments in their 2019–2020 district budgets to ending child marriage.
With the National Strategy coming to an end in 2020, it is currently being reviewed and evaluated to inform a new Strategy development in 2021.
Uganda is a focus country of the UNICEF-UNFPA Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage. As part of the Global Programme, in 2018 more than 114000 adolescent girls were reached with life skills education intended to keep girls in school, and more than 37500 people participated in community dialogues on adolescent issues such as child marriage.
In the 2020 annual report of the Global Programme to end child marriage established:
“Go-Back-to-School” campaign increased the enrolment and re-enrolment of both child mothers and girls with disabilities.
346,526 adolescent girls aged 10-19 participated in at least one intervention programme aimed at empowering them with information to delay child marriage.
Of the 346,526 girls, 16,267 girls were supported to join and access loan facilities to enhance their economic opportunities.
40,706 adolescent girls aged 10-19 were supported to enrol in education to delay child marriage.
560,182 community members were engaged in dialogues promoting gender equitable norms including delaying child marriage.
1.5 million people in programme areas were reached through social media campaigns on the need to eradicate child marriage.
40 out of 55 districts developed and implemented subcounty-level action plans.
National Strategy to End Child Marriage was disseminated and implemented in 55 out of 120 districts with high child marriage prevalence.
Numerous other policies have addressed child marriage at national level, including:
The National Child Policy 2020, pledges to curb cases of child marriage and adolescent pregnancy.
The Second National Development Plan (2015/16 - 2019/20), renewed the commitment to reduce early marriages and adolescent pregnancies by retaining children in school and providing adolescent reproductive health services.
The Gender in Education Policy (2009), which pledges to facilitate the re-entry of girls who drop out of school as a result of child marriage.
The National Population Policy, which acknowledged child marriage as a negative cultural practice and the need to address it.
The National Strategy for Girls’ Education (NSGE) inUganda (2015 – 2019), which acknowledged early marriages as a critical challenge and intends to create a framework to tackle it, along with adolescent pregnancy.
The National Multi-Sectoral Coordination Framework for Adolescent Girls, launched in 2018, aims to eliminate all forms of violence and discrimination against adolescent girls and places child marriage among the top nine “key issues” facing girls in the country.
A Multi-Sectoral Communication for Development (C4D) Strategy for Adolescent Girls was also issued to support the priorities of this Framework, and also includes strategies to lessen the practice.
The first National Sexuality Education Framework, launched in 2018 by the Uganda’s Ministry of Education. It aims to guide a national response to sexuality education in schools. While UNFPA and UNICEF were involved in the development of the Framework, it has received some criticism for, among other things, pushing traditional gender norms and advocating an abstinence-only approach.
The Presidential Initiative for AIDS Strategy for Communication to Youth has been integrated into the National Strategy on Ending Child Marriage and Teen Pregnancy and rolled out in 11 districts.
What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?
Under the Children’s Act 2016 the minimum legal age of marriage is 18 years as it defines child marriage as “any union whether formal or informal involving any person below the age of 18 years for the purpose of living as husband and wife”.
In addition, Article 31 of the (amended) Ugandan Constitution sets the minimum legal age of marriage for both women and men at 18.
However, the legal framework for marriage in Uganda is complex and it is unclear how provisions in civil, religious and customary law interact with each other:
The Marriage Act (1904) for civil marriages sets the legal age of marriage is 21 years for women and men, but they can be married with parental consent at 18 years.
Customary Marriage (Registration) Act sets the minimum age of marriage at 16 for girls and 18 for boys.
The Hindu Marriage and Divorce Act (1961) Cap 250 sets the minimum age of marriage at 18 for boys and 16 for girls. Girls aged 16 require parental consent to be married.
The Marriage and Divorce of Mohammedans Act 1906 does not set a minimum age of marriage.
In this country we have a national partnership. Many Girls Not Brides member organisations have come together to accelerate progress to end child marriage in their countries by forming National Partnerships and coalitions. Below is an overview of what and where these networks are, what they do and how they work with Girls Not Brides.
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