Child marriage is a violation of human rights that impacts girls into adulthood and extends to…
What Is the Prevalence rate of Child Marriages in Somalia?
With an estimated 45% of girls getting married before the age of 18, Somalia has the tenth highest prevalence of child marriage in the world.
What are the Causes of Child Marriage in Somalia
Harmful Religious, Traditional norms and cultural practices:
Parents prefer to marry their daughters off early than face the public shame if their daughters are abused on the way to or from school.
Religious leaders in particular refrain from decrying child marriage while others permit it to happen.
Girls are also pressured into marriage by their peers as part of a bandwagon effect although most of these marriages end in divorces worsening the family social status.
Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C): Somalia is one of few countries in the world where it is estimated that almost all of women and girls have experienced Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C). This is strongly linked to attempts to control female sexuality and prepare girls for marriage.
Gender norms and power dynamics: About 30% of girls aged 15 to 24 marry husbands who are 10 or more years older, and about one in five women aged between 15 and 49 are in polygynous marriages. This contributes to placing women and girls in a subservient
Poverty and Humanitarian Crises:
While gender inequality is a root cause of child marriage in both stable and crisis contexts, often in times of crisis, families see child marriage as a way to cope with greater economic hardship and to protect girls from increased violence. For decades, Somalia has suffered from extreme weather, especially recurrent droughts and floods, and a prolonged conflict, all of which add on to widespread poverty in the country. 6.3 million people are at risk of food shortages and as of August 2018, there are 2.6 million internally displaced people in Somalia.
Armed conflict and the resulting displacement: A high rate of defilement of Somali Girls has been reported by armed groups especially the Al-Shabaab, with subsequent forced marriages to the perpetrators as an exemplification of the harsh Sharia law. Families have fled their homes to Internally Displaced Camps where they seek to protect their daughters although these setting equally pose a risk to sexual violence and forced marriage.
What is the minimum legal requirement around child marriage in Somalia?
- The provisional Somalian Constitution (2012) states that a “marriage shall not be legal without the free consent of both the man and the woman, or if either party has not reached the age of maturity.” However, the Constitution does not define the age of maturity meaning that girls could marry at any age under 18.
- In addition, according to the Family Code (1975), the legal age for marriage in Somalia is 18 for both men and women. But it provides exceptions for girls to be married at age 16 or younger with a guardian’s consent.
What are the Global, Regional and National Commitments made by the Somali Government to End Child Marriage
- The 1991 signature of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, including Article 21 regarding the prohibition of child marriage.
- The 2006 signature of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, including Article 6 which sets the minimum age for marriage as 18.
- Somalia has committed to the 2030 target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals.
- Co-sponsorship of the 2014 UN General Assembly resolution; the 2013 Human Rights Council resolution on child, early and forced marriage; the 2014, joint statement at the Human Rights Council calling for a resolution on child marriage.
- Ratification of 2015 Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2015, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18. Althought the country has not signed or ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.
- During its 2016 Universal Periodic Review, Somalia agreed to examine recommendations to counteract serious human rights violations of women and girls, including child marriage.
- In 2019, at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, the Somali Government committed to zero tolerance for gender-based violence by addressing vulnerability factors, especially among internally-displaced people, and strengthening policy and legal frameworks.
- At the London Girl Summit in July 2014, the government signed a charter committing to end child marriage by 2020.
- Somalia is a partner country of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).
What is the government doing to End Child Marriage in Somalia?
- The Somali Ministry of Women and Family Affairs has drafted legislation to protect children from child marriage and FGM/C. In 2019, Somalia reported to the UN Child Rights Committee that the Sexual Offences Bill, which is currently on the floor of parliament, provides sanctions for child marriages.
- The National Development Plan (2017–2019) also stated the government intention of eliminating child marriage.
- The Ministry of Justice has trained some religious leaders on child marriage awareness and has provided them with templates to ensure proper documentation and action plans on minimising child marriages. It is also working to register sheikhs (religious leaders) and provide licenses for the performance of nikahs (“marriage” in Islamic law) to keep track of and control child marriage.
- African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, [website], 2018, .
- 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,
- Council on Foreign Relations, Al-Shabab, [website].
- European Commission, Somalia, [website], 2020.
- Federal Government of Somalia, National Development Plan.
- Girl Summit 2014, The Girl Summit Charter on Ending FGM and Child, Early and Forced Marriage, [website], 2015.
- Global Partnership for Education, Somalia .
- Human Rights Watch, No Place for Children Child Recruitment, Forced Marriage, and Attacks on Schools in Somali, 2012.
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Joint statement on child, early and forced marriage, HRC 27, Agenda Item 3, [website], 2014
- Nairobi Summit, Somalia’s Statement of Commitment, [website], 2019 .
- OECD, Social Institutions and Gender Index 2019,Somalia, 2019 .
- Save the Children, Preventing Child Marriage in Somaliland, 2016,
- The Federal Republic of Somalia, Provisional Constitution, 2012 .
- UN Child Rights Committee, Initial report submitted by Somalia under article 44 of the Convention, due in 2017, CRC/C/SOM/1, 2019,p. 13,
- UN General Assembly, Compilation prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in accordance with paragraph 15 (b) of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 5/1 and paragraph 5 of the annex to Council resolution 16/21 Somalia, 2015, p.24, .
- UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Somalia, 2016.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Somalia.
- UNICEF, Situation Analysis of Children in Somalia, 2016.
- UNICEF global databases 2020, based on Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), and other national surveys. Population data from United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2019). World Population Prospects 2019, Online Edition. Rev. 1.
- UNICEF, Somalia Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2006, 2007,
- UNICEF, UNICEF Somalia Annual Report, 2016 .
- United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017,