Malawi is a
landlocked southeast Africa country which is administratively divided
into three regions namely; southern, central and northern. Malawi is bordered by Zambia to the
northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique on the
east, south and west. Malawi is over 118,000 km2 with an
estimated population of 18,091,575 with over 43 percent of the
population being aged 0 to 14 years and 46 percent aged 15-49. About 70 percent of the total
population is aged 30 years and less, therefore making Malawi a young
population1.

Malawi’s economy
is heavily based in agriculture, with a largely rural population of 83.7%2. Malawi
is among the world’s least- developed countries and is faced by many
developmental challenges with nearly 53% of the inhabitants living below the
poverty line3.
The
harmful traditional practice of child marriage remains one of the main
challenges towards the full realization and enjoyment of children’s rights in
Malawi just like in many African countries4.

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Many countries in the
sub-Saharan Africa, such as Malawi, are faced with the problem of child
marriage which has been recorded as high as 40% of the women being married as
children. Some of these countries including Malawi have a substantive legal
framework that affords protection and prohibits the harmful practice of child
marriage. However, child marriages remain prevalent in Malawi with the country
having the highest rates of child marriage in the world with approximately one out of two girls in the country being married by
her eighteenth birthday, according to the United Nations. In the year 2010,
half of women aged 20 to 24 years were married or in union before they were 18
years. Some of these girls are as young as 9 or 10 years of age when they are
married.5

Studies done by
Human Rights Watch in Malawi in 2014 and UNICEF in 2016 indicate that marriage
at an early age exposes the young girls to many violations; gender based
violence including domestic and sexual violence. Majority others have gone
through neglect and abandonment by their husbands who left them to care for
children without any financial support, thus increasing the likelihood of their
being impoverished. The studies also brought out incidences/cases in which
child marriage also led girls into commercial sexual exploitation and child
labour. Many Malawian communities however see child
marriage as being in the best interests of girls and their families with some
families seeing it as an important way to improve their economic status,
sometimes through payment of dowry by the groom to the bride’s family, or
through continued support by their daughter’s husband. Due to the high level of
poverty in Malawi, for some girls, marriage may suggest a route, however often
unfulfilled, to escape this poverty. Malawi’s traditions and patriarchal
cultures have deeply entrenched Child marriage practices and also encourage
early sexual initiation and marriage and women’s subordination in society, although
it stigmatizes adolescent pregnancy. Early Marriage is therefore regarded as a
means of protecting girls who get pregnant from undermining family honour6. The main challenge that has really hindered the fight against child
marriage in Malawi is, these entrenched attitudes that accept and condone these
practices.

The Human
Rights Watch further indicates the inherent health risks experienced by the
girls who get married at tender ages associated with early pregnancy, including
maternal death, obstetric fistula, premature delivery, and anaemia. The
shortage of prenatal and postnatal health care services, especially in Malawi’s
rural areas, increases these risks.

1
Malawi Demographic and Health Survey 
2015/16

2
Malawi Demographic Profile 2017

3
UNctad report- Development and Globalisation facts and figures 2017

4
Human Rights Watch 2015

5
UNICEF, State of the World’s Children, 2016

6
Human Rights Watch 2015

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