Malawian Chief Annuls 330 Child Marriages

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Senior Chief Inkosi Kachindamoto annulled 330 child marriages in an effort to discourage its prevalence within her constituency.

Kachindamoto’s actions follow the government’s recent adoption of the Marriage, Divorce, and Family Relations Bill which increased the minimum age of marriage to 18-years-old. The bill, signed by President Peter Mutharika, is an enormous step for girls’ rights in a country where one out of two girls is married before the age of 18.

In rural areas especially, girls as young as nine or ten are married off to older men. This practice is closely linked to poverty and gender inequality. Family members often feel pressure to marry off their children in order to receive dowry payments. Many parents cannot afford to take care of their daughters so they force them into marriage to relieve themselves of the financial burden.

One of the consequences of child marriage is the inability for girls to receive an education. After marriage, many girls drop out of primary or secondary school. In Malawi, the literacy rate for men is 74%, while for women it is 57%. Without an education, there is little chance for Malawi girls and women to better their lives. Dreams of becoming a nurse, doctor, or teacher remain dreams rather than a reality.

This is what Kachindamoto hopes to change. “I don’t want youthful marriages, they must go to school…,” she told Nysasa Times, “…No child should be found loitering at home; gardening or doing any house chores during school time.”

Malawi is moving in the right direction toward gender equality; however, it will be up to the government and the Malawi people to enforce the new law and change cultural norms that condone this widespread practice. Only then can child marriage in Malawi be eradicated for good.  

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