Child marriages in Srilanka
The legal age of marriage for a civil marriage in Srilanka is 18 years old. Still, it is estimated that 12% of the girls in Srilanka are married before the age of 18 and 2% among them are married by the age of 15 (Source : UNICEF).
Poverty (nearly 45 percent of the population lived on less than $5 per day Source: world bank) little or no awareness on sexual and reproductive health and teenage pregnancies, social norms, lack of access to education and Vocational opportunities and pathetic Laws (ex: The Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA), which regulates Muslim Marriages dose not set a minimum age of marriage) are seen as the main issues that lead to child marriages in Srilanka. Also the civil war for decades has created long lasting impacts in the lives of many families and their Children in Srilanka.
Impacts of Child Marriages:
In Sri Lanka, Girls who marry before 18 are more likely to experience physical, psychological and sexual abuse and violence from their partners and they are at a higher risk of dying in childbirths. Early marriage leads to early childbearing, which increases the risk of serious health complications, infant death, malnutrition and even maternal death. Apart from health risks, many Sri Lankan girls who are forced into early marriage repeatedly experience domestic violence.
**** The Eastern province of the country had the highest teenage pregnancy rate of 10.2% while Central province had the lowest rate of 4.1%. (source : UNFPA Srilanka)
Ways in which Child marriages are being addressed:
In order to end early marriages in Srilanka, Government and the Non-Governmental Organizations are implementing various interventions. Such as raising awareness in areas where the prevalence as well as trainings for community leaders, police and other law enforcement personnel and government officials, providing economic Support to Girls and their families, Enhancing access to Education both formal and non-formal and empowering girls with information, skills and networking and working on legal and policy reform.
As a remarkable initiative, on the 2nd of June 2017, UNICEF joined the government and partners to launch the National Partnership to End Violence Against Children #NPEVAC. All partners (Child Focused Organizations in Srilanka) signed this June Declaration to End Violence Against Children in Srilanka by 2030. #LKA # ForEveryChild
Very recently ,Youth leaders of Child Development Fund has started running a signature campaign to end violence against children by sending petition with 100,000 signature to the President of Sri Lanka, Prime Minister and Minister of Women and Child affairs to create enabling environment for children to enjoy their rights. Youths have created a mobile app to collect the endorsements and they are in the process of collecting the signatures in the field level.
In general, many evidences point out that the drivers of early marriage, including poverty, social norms, gender-based discrimination and in some places the laws that regulate marriages at early ages. It is clear that programs and strategies must address multiple social and economic drivers to delay marriage. It is also critical to provide individual and family-level resources within interventions. Preventing child marriage requires strengthened legal and policy frameworks also increasing girls’ access to education and financial opportunity can either directly or indirectly delay marriage.