Early child marriages: recent law reform and jurisprudence in Africa towards banning the practice.
Popoola, Puriphine Snenduduzo.
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Many young girls m the developing countries, mainly in Africa, are subjected to early marriages. The majority of such girls cannot choose their marriage age or the person they marry. In this dissertation, the literature on early child marriages in Africa as well as recent legislative reforms towards curbing the practice are reviewed. Most of the findings from empirical studies indicate that the incidence of early marriages is high in Africa and that those young girls who marry early tend to possess fewer years of schooling and start childbearing prematurely. Malawi, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Ghana have experienced increases in early child marriages and the integration of international and regional legislation has been, at ti.mes, in conflict with customary laws. Moreover, empirical evidence suggests the existence of disparities in the minimum age of marriage for girls and boys in Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa with age differences under separate laws such as under customary laws and other marriage laws. Studies also indicate that within Africa as well as other regions of the world, longstanding risk influences such as poverty and male-dominated social values work together to weaken the effect of interventions to curb early child marriages. The most documented successes against early child marriage in Africa have been credited to the propagation of schooling opportunities for young girls as well as women economic empowerment policy interventions. The literature reviewed suggests a high prevalence of child marriages not only in Africa, but across the world. Cases of early child marriages were found to be enabled by a plethora of socio-economic and cultural factors such as poverty prevalence, weak legislation, deep-rooted stereotypes about gender roles and cultural and religious practices supporting early child marriages.