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Malawi takes a positive step towards protecting girls and strengthening families

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On 12th February 2015, the Malawian Parliament passed the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations bill which increases the legal age of marriage to 18. Previously, girls in Malawi were allowed to marry at 16 or, with parental consent, at 15. In addition to the new minimum marriage age, the bill also has strong protections for married women, giving equal status to both parties in a marriage. The bill is set to be signed by President Peter Mutharika and will bring Malawi in line with international standards for the minimum age of marriage, such as the African Charter’s Maputo Protocol and Convention on the right of the child.

“The law is extremely crucial because child marriage is a big, big problem in our country,” said parliamentarian Jessie Kabwila who helped push for the new legislation. “The country will for the first time clearly articulate that we are saying ‘No’ to child marriage.”

At the core of efforts for scaling up nutrition, women are empowered to be leaders in their families and communities, leading the way to a healthier and stronger world. This bill is a step towards protecting adolescent girls from child marriage and educating young mothers to help break the cycle of poor nutrition status. It will help to reduce the risk of complications at birth and having low birth weight babies that are susceptible to disease and stunting. Addressing child marriage requires recognition of the various factors that contribute to the perpetuation of the practice. These include economic factors (e.g., the need to support many children, paying a lower dowry), structural factors (e.g., lack of educational opportunities), and social factors (e.g., sense of tradition and social obligation, risk of pregnancy out of wedlock, avoiding criticism whereby older unmarried girls may be considered impure).

Ending child marriage will not only allow girls to reach their full potential, it will also contribute to healthier families and improve Malawi’s economic growth as these girls are able to contribute fully to their society.

Read more about the bill at AllAfricaReutersUN MalawiVOA News and DEVEX

Learn more about the issue of Child Marriage


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