Model law brings hope of ending child marriage

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has approved a Model Law on Eradicating Child Marriage and Protecting Children Already in Marriage.

Although rates of early and forced marriage are believed to be declining in southern Africa, the situation varies across countries with up to 50% of girls in Mozambique married before they are 18 years old.

There are many reasons why girls are forced or pushed into marriage and early pregnancy, despite the negative consequences for their health, quality of life and prospects. High levels of poverty and inequality, patriarchy and gender inequality, lack of education and employment opportunities, and cultural and religious norms are among them. Passing a law is not going to deal with all these complex issues but it sends a powerful signal to girls and to political and community leaders, teachers and parents that girls’ lives matter and that they can expect protection and support.

Development of the model law was supported by the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) East and Southern Africa Regional Office, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA), Plan International’s 18 Plus Programme, the Southern African Litigation Centre and Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage.

The law is scheduled to be adopted by parliamentarians from SADC national parliaments at the 39th Plenary Assembly Session of the SADC-PF in Swaziland in June 2016. Member country governments will then be expected to use the good practice provisions in the law to harminise national laws to prevent child marriage.

For more information on how young people and civil society influenced the drafting of the legislation click here.

For detail on the drafting process click here.