Malawi government has said as the National Assembly resumes sitting Monday to review the 2014/15 National Budget, it will table the Marriage Bill to increase legal marriage age from 14years to 18 in an effort to reduce one of the world’s highest rates of mothers death in childbirth.
The government, according to Leader of the House Francis Kasaila, would amend the Marriage Age Bill.
Kasaila, who is also Minister of Transport and Public Works, said after consultations with stakeholders on legal, social, youth and marital issues, the Marriage, Divorce, and Family Relations Bill (Marriage Bill) will be presented before the House.
The bill, among others, proposes to raise the age at which an individual can formally be allowed to marry from 14 to 18 years.
The last time the issue was brought before the House about five years ago, former president, the late Bingu wa Mutharika, refused to sign a ‘Chidyamakanda’ bill which the legislature had passed on the matter, to rise the marriage age to 16, after a public outcry for it to be increased to 18.
Health campaigners say that the low legal marriage age is largely responsible for the high numbers of girls getting pregnant in their teenage years, when they are ill-equipped physically and socially to cope.
Premature pregnancy accounted for a quarter of Malawi’s maternal deaths. Early marriage also jeopardizes a girl’s right to education.
In addition, married girls have few social connections, restricted control over resources and little power in their new households and domestic violence is always common in such marriages and abandonment.