End Child Marriage in the Central African Republic
End Child Marriage in the Central African Republic
The rate of child marriage in the Central African Republic is the second highest in the world. Thousands of young girls are being forced into marriage arrangements with men up to 4 times their age. They are exposed to sexual, physical and emotional violence and are having children when they are still children themselves.
The Central African Republic has signed many agreements to ban marriage for children under the age of 18 but none of these has been enforced and hundreds of girls are still getting married each day. I have written a letter to the president of the Central African Republic, Mr Faustin-Archange Touadéra and the government representatives to persuade them to end this practice.
Please sign and support this letter to help support girls in the Central African Republic and to support the enforcement of child marriage laws, to allow them to continue with their education and protect the generations of girls to come.
Here is the letter:
Dear Mr Faustin-Archange Touadéra and the Representatives of the Central African Republic Government,
The rate of child marriage in the Central African Republic and has the second highest international ranking, at 68%. According to UNICEF in 2017, 29% of children were married by the age of 15 and 68% were married under the age of 18. Most of the children who get forced into child marriage are girls and it is most prevalent in Ouaka, Basse Kotto and Nana Mambéré and Kémo and among the Haussa, Bands and Yakona-Sango ethnic groups.
Child marriage cuts short girls’ education as girls often leave school when married or shortly after as their domestic demands increase. Many of them will fall pregnant soon later and they must look after their children and will not be able to attend school. This traps the girls and their families in a cycle of intergenerational poverty since their educational needs are not met, it pushes them into early, unplanned and often repeated pregnancies and therefore limits their employment opportunities.
The health consequences for young mothers is dramatic. West and Central Africa has some of the highest adolescent birth rates in the world. 28% of young women in that region gave birth before 18 and 6% before the age of 15. Young mothers face a range of health risks such as obstetric fistula and early pregnancy and childbirth are leading causes of death for young girls in developing countries. It is also harmful to child brides’ new-borns too. Babies born to mothers under the age of 20 have a 50% higher risk of being stillborn or dying within their first few weeks than those born to older women. Child marriage exposes girls to greater risks of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and sexual, physical and emotional violence.
With the second highest economic growth on the continent, West and Central Africa has the potential to lead on Africa’s economic development achievements. Child marriage is one of the main reasons holding it back from achievements in the economy. By cutting short the girls’ education, it reduces their expected earnings later in life by 9%. These lost earnings are costing the country billions. A recent study on the economic costs of child marriage indicated that it is costing trillions to the global economy.
There are not yet any laws to fully protect children from young marriage in the Central African Republic and every single minute, girls are being married to men that could be 4 times their age. Although there is a law that children need to be over 18 years old to be married, children are still allowed to be married if given parental consent. Some girls have been forcibly married to ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka members by their families as a way of protecting their daughters from sexual violence during the times of insecurity. Although they do this for the benefit of their daughters, the girls are then exposed to sexual assault and domestic violence at the hands of their husbands. A law that enforces the ban on child marriage would be much more effective to protect the wellbeing of the girls and children during times of insecurity.
The Central African Republic has signed the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, including Article 21 regarding the prohibition of child marriage in 2003 but this has not yet been ratified. In 2008, the Central African Republic signed the African Charter on Human and People Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, including Article 6 which sets the minimum age for marriage as 18. This also has not been enforced or ratified. These agreements must be formally addressed and followed up. Child marriage is not a small issue and it must be taken into account.
Laws must be passed and enforced, we need to spread awareness to the communities, villages and schools. We need to start programs to educate and inform the dangers of child marriage and children’s rights to young girls, their families and their communities. We must also offer support for child brides and children married at a young age in those communities.
Protect the next generations of children, mothers and families. For the sake of the wellbeing of generations of children, mothers, grandmothers to come, STOP child marriage, END this practice that traps families in generations of poverty and allow children to pursue their education and their dreams.
Libby Li – Australia