Child marriage is caused by many different factors and is not determined by any particular religion. Yet religious leaders often have great influence over beliefs and behaviours in their communities. So with almost 80% of the world’s population professing a religious belief, working with religious leaders can be an important part of the comprehensive approach needed to end child marriage.
Some religious leaders have taken action to address child marriage and have been powerful agents of change. Others have been obstacles to progress and civil society organisations have faced challenges in engaging with them. To support its members in overcoming these challenges, Girls Not Brides commissioned the Unit for Religion and Development Research at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, to explore why and how some religious leaders resist efforts to end end child marriage, and what organisations can do when facing religious resistance.
Based on a literature review and 15 interviews with practitioners working with various religious communities across different regions, the researchers developed a typology of religious resistance, identifying six ways in which some religious leaders oppose actions to end child marriage, and seven reasons why they do so. The report then highlights three key principles that any organisation wishing to engage with religious leaders should follow, and five common strategies that have proved useful to work effectively with religious leaders across different contexts.