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What is the prevalence of Early Child Marriages in Mozambique?

Mozambique has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, affecting one in every two girls (53%), and has the second-highest rate in the eastern and southern African sub-region.  In addition, up to 17 % percent of women in Mozambique aged 20–24 were first married or in a union before the age of 15,  (DHS, 2015).

Ending Child Marriage in Mozambique could increase the country’s earnings and productivity by USD 375 million,        (World Bank /ICRW, 2017).

What drives Child marriages in Mozambique

  • Poverty: 

With rampant poverty in the country , more than 50% percent of girls aged 20-24 years across all wealth quintiles ( poorest, second, middle, fourth) except the richest, are at risk of being married before the age of 18 years (AIDS Survey, 2015). Underage girls are given to men for a bride price to rid families of economic burdens. 

  • Humanitarian crises and displacement: the country has also been plagued by unprecedented consecutive humanitarian crises including droughts, cyclones and civil wars which have displaced populations causing breakdowns in social services like education and worsened poverty which subsequently exacerbates the vulnerability of girls to child marriage. Families marry off girls to cope with food scarcity, poverty and economic insecurity.
  • Harmful traditional practices such as:
  • Polygamy  where girls are married as second or third wives to richer men.
  • Gender norms which attach a higher social status and bride price value to virgin girls
  • Sexual Initiation rituals that reduce a girl to the full control of her husband. 
  • Level of education: 

Girls with primary education in the age group 20-24 are almost as likely (64%) to get married by the age of 18 as those with no education (66%). Only 32% of those in this age group who attained secondary education were at risk of getting married before the age of 18 years (AIDS Survey, 2015) . 

  • Rural vs Urban inequities for girls and their risks to adolescent pregnancy: 

Girls in rural areas are almost as twice as likely (62%) to get married before the age of 18 compared to those in urban areas (37%) (AIDS Survey, 2015). 

In these rural settings where access to contraception is extremely low, girls who get pregnant are married off to the men responsible to reduce the economic burden on their families. 

What is the minimum legal framework around child marriages 

The 2004 National Family Law sets the minimum legal age of marriage at 18 years and was amended in 2019 to grant no exceptions . 

International, Regional and National commitments adopted by  Mozambique  to combat Child Marriage 

  • The 1994 ratification of Convention on the Rights of the Child that set 18 years as the minimum age of marriage. 
  • The 1997 adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) requiring free and full consent to marriage.
  • The 1998 ratification of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
  • The 2005 ratification of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.
  • Co-sponsorship of 2013, 2014 and 2018 UN General Assembly resolutions on child, early and forced marriage, together with the 2017 resolution on recognising child marriage in humanitarian contexts, and the 2019 resolution on the consequences of child marriage. 
  • The 2016 Universal Periodic Review, where Mozambique supported the establishment of the minimum age of marriage at 18 years and  operationalised a gender strategy within the education system in order to combat child marriage.
  • The 2019 adoption of the Sustainable Development Goal including target 5.3. to eliminate early and forced marriage by 2030. 
  • The 2019 CEDAW Committee review and the 2019 Child Rights Committee review, which both expressed concerns over the increasing number of child marriages without legal prosecution of perpetrators. Both committees urged Mozambique to engage communities to end negative gender rituals, and lobbied for resourcing, extension and full implementation of the National Strategy for preventing and combating child marriages (2016–2019).  
  • Signature of the Eastern and Southern Africa Ministerial Commitment on Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Sexual and Reproductive Health Services for Young People 
  • Mozambique’s 2019 ICPD25 (Nairobi Summit) commitment to end all forms of violence against women and girls, including early, child and forced marriage.
  • The Implementation of interventions targeted to accelerate the reduction of HIV transmission among Adolescent Girls and Young Women through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)/DREAMS Initiative.
  • Mozambique is a Global Partnership for Education (GPE) country. 

What is the Government of Mozambique doing to end child marriages? 

  • In 2019, the Parliament of Mozambique approved the Law on Prevention and Combat of Premature Unions which penalises premature unions (child marriage), as well as establishes mechanisms to protect children in those unions.
  • Mozambique is a focus country of the UNICEF-UNFPA Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage, a multi-donor, multi-stakeholder programme working across 12 countries over four years; in 2018 more than 200,000 Mozambican girls were reached with life skills interventions, while 5 million people were engaged as part of a mass media campaign against child marriage.
  • The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Affairs developed a National Costed Strategy to Prevent and Eliminate Child Marriage (2016-2019) which is being implemented in collaboration with UNICEF, UNFPA and the Girls Not Brides national partnership (CECAP).


  1. African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, [website], 2018, 
  2. African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, [website], 2018, 
  3. Care International, Hope Dries up? Women and Girls Coping with Drought and Climate Change in Mozambique, 2016, 
  4. Girls Not Brides Mozambique, UNFPA and UNICEF, Child marriage and Adolescent Pregnancy: Policy Brief, 2015, 
  5. Global Partnership for Education, Mozambique,
  6. Human Rights Watch, Mozambique Passes Law to End Child Marriage, 2019, 
  7. Ministerial Commitment on comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people in Eastern and Southern African, [website], 2014,  
  8. Ministério da Saúde, MISAU, Instituto Nacional de Estatística and ICF, Inquérito de Indicadores de Imunização, Malária e HIV/SIDA em Moçambique – IMASIDA, 2015,  
  9. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Joint statement on child, early and forced marriage, HRC 27, Agenda Item 3, 2014
  10. Spotlight Initiative, Mozambique
  11. U.S. Department of State, United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, [website], 2019, 
  12.  UN CEDAW, Concluding observations on the combined third to fifth periodic reports of Mozambique, CEDAW/C/MOZ/CO/3-5, 2019, p. 6-7, 
  13. UN Child Rights Committee, Concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Mozambique, 2009, 
  14. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child combined third and fourth periodic reports submitted by Mozambique under article 44 of the Convention, CRC/C/MOZ/3-4, 2018, 
  15. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations on the combined third and fourth periodic reports of Mozambique, CRC/C/MOZ/CO/3-4, 2019, 
  16. UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review Mozambique, 2016, p. 17 and 19, 
  1. UNICEF-UNFPA Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage, 2018 Annual Report. Country Profiles, 2019, 
  2. United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017
  3. World Bank and International Center for Research on Women, Economic Impacts of Child Marriage: Global Synthesis Report, 2017, 
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