January 5, 2006

Steps considered preventing forced child marriages

The growing number of cases of young girls being forced to marry much older men has compelled the Malawian government to consider rising the legal age of marriage from 15 to 18. According to the BBC World Service, many men are illegally marrying girls as young as 11 or 12. Consequently, the average age of marriage in Malawi is among the world's lowest, while the percentage of teenage mothers is among the world's highest. Maxwell Matewere, executive director of The Eye Of The Child organisation, which fights for children's rights in Malawi, has raised concerns about a possible link between the spread of HIV/AIDS and this growing trend. "We strongly believe that the incidents of children being forced into marriage are growing by the day, but for people to report this is a taboo," Matewere was quoted as saying. "It brings shame to the community, so they prefer to keep the information within the communities." (BBC)

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