4. Malawi's international legal obligations on child marriage
Map of Malawi
Key recommendations. To the President of Malawi ; To the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs ; To the Ministry of Gender, Children and Community Development ; To the Ministry of Education ; To the Ministry of Health ; To United Nations agencies and international donors
Background : rights of women and girls in Malawi. Women's legal and social status ; Literacy and access to education ; Violence against women and girls ; Reproductive, maternal, and child health ; Child marriage
I. Child marriage : harm and rights violations. Limited literacy and access to education ; Sexual violence, domestic abuse, and abandonment ; Adverse health consequences
II. Malawi's laws on child marriage. Existing laws ; Minimum age for marriage, sexual consent ; Current legal developments on marriage age ; Definition of a child ; Birth and marriage registrations
III. Right to redress for child marriage victims. Lack of shelters ; Prosecution versus mediation : police and judicial perspectives ; Training for law enforcement officers ; Coordination among government agencies ; National action plan ; Seeking help and enforcing rights
IV. Malawi's international legal obligations on child marriage ; Obligation to enforce consistent definition of a child, minimum marriage age, and birth and marriage registration ; Rights to equality and non-discrimination ; Right to consent to marriage, choose a spouse ; Right of children to express their views freely ; Right to health ; Right to education ; Right to be free from physical, mental, and sexual violence
Recommendations. To the President of Malawi ; To the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affair ; To the Ministry of Gender, Children and Community Development ; To the Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security ; To the Ministry of Education ; To the Ministry of Health ; To the Judiciary ; To the Malawi Human Rights Commission ; To United Nations agencies and international donors.
"One out of two girls in Malawi will be married by her eighteenth birthday. Some are as young as 9 or 10 when they are married. Child marriage violates the rights of girls and women. It increases Malawi's high levels of poverty, illiteracy, and maternal mortality. It widens marked gender gaps in education. Many Malawian families see marriage as a way to improve their economic status, sometimes through payment of a dowry, or through continued support by their daughter's husband. Child marriage is also deeply entrenched in Malawi's traditions and patriarchal culture. "I've never experienced happiness," based on in-depth interviews with 80 girls and women in six districts in Malawi, examines how child marriage negatively shapes the experiences, status, and security of Malawian girls and women, and limits their development. It shows how the practice violates their rights to health and education, freedom from physical, mental, and sexual violence, and their right to marry only when they can give their free and full consent. Human Rights Watch recommends the Malawian government adopt a comprehensive approach to child marriage. This should include legal reforms and programmatic initiatives that effectively address the causes and consequences of child marriage, as well as protection for girls and women who seek redress through the justice system. Reforms are urgently needed to reduce the far-reaching harms of child marriage and its negative implications for Malawi's future development"--Page  of cover.