Mozambique, Cote d’Ivoire make legal strides for women and children’s rights

In July 2019, Mozambique and Cote d’Ivoire became the latest countries in sub-Saharan Africa to strengthen laws to empower girls and women. Mozambique passed a law to criminalize child marriages. Cote d’Ivoire pushed for gender equality by amending a marriage law that suppressed a woman’s rights over marital property.

Mozambique criminalizes child marriage

On July 24, 2019, the Mozambican government passed the Law on Prevention and Combat of Premature Unions. This new law criminalizes girl child marriages. Any individual who officiates or authorizes underage marriages will be sentenced to imprisonnment for at least two to eight years. Any adult who enters a marital or sexual union with a child under the age of 18 will be imprisoned for at least eight to twelve years.

According to Mozambican Family Law (2004), the legal age of marriage is 18. It allowed for marriage at 16 with consent from parents, guardians or courts. Article 19 of this law forbids child marriage, yet, 48 percent of girls in Mozambique are married before their 18th birthday.
Mozambique is among the top ten countries in sub-Saharan Africa with a high prevalence of child marriages. This recently passed law eliminates the clause that allowed marriages under 18.

In 2017, the United Nations reported that drought drove families to marry off girls. Poverty, gender norms and adolescent pregnancies are the main factors behind girl child marriages in Mozambique.

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