Malawi pass law to end ‘sweet 16’ marriages:  Legal age of marriage now 18 

Malawi has outlawed child marriage after the much awaited Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Bill which has streamlined legislation on marriage and divorce, and also introduced a new marriage age of 18, was tabled and  has been passed by MPs in the Parliament.

Kaliati: End to child marriages

Kaliati: End to child marriages

Malawi had one of the lowest legal ages of marriage in Africa. The constitution allowed children to marry at the age of 15 with their parents consent.

International child rights standards recommend 18 as the minimum age for marriage.

A Special Law Commission on the review of laws on marriage and divorce was instituted in 2001 and the Bill drafted years later but the cabinet rejected it over the issue of prohibition of polygamy.

Minister of Gender, Children and Social Welfare Patricia Kaliati tabled the bill in parliament and expressed delight that MP supported to pass the bill especially on the “marriage age.”

Kaliati said they have increased the legal age of marriage  to 18 for girls to be marrie as part of efforts to end the phenomenon of child brides, which has hindered female education in a country where half the population is illiterate.

“The minimum age [for marriage] is now 18 years, when a girl is old enough to make her own choices,” said Kaliati.

Minister Kaliati says parents and guardians who neglect children will  be punished by the law.

“We have set ten years imprisonment as the minimum term for one to serve for being involved in child marriage in one way or the other. This will stop all perpetrators of child marriages.”

A coalition of local and international NGOs is currently engaging a number of girls who had dropped out of school – due to pregnancy or prostitution – with a view to getting them to go back to class.

“A number of girls have returned to school,” said Mac Bain Mkandawire, chairman of the “End Child Marriage Campaign Task-force.”

“But there are many out there still tied to the yoke of early marriage,” he noted. “They want to leave, but they can’t. They need help.”

He believes an amendment of the country’s marriage law would help.

“The amendment will enable us to clearly have the backing of the law,” Mkandawire asserted.

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29 thoughts on “Malawi pass law to end ‘sweet 16’ marriages:  Legal age of marriage now 18 ”

  1. As a women rights activists is a good move to pass the bill because it will help us who protected the rights of girls to have the legal backing and puninsh all the perpetrators of child marriage. Bravo the Government, Bravo the MPs. Long live women rights. ” Centre for Social Concern and Development”. Working to end child marriages in Malawi.

  2. muropwana says:

    Just make primary and secondary education (up to JC) compulsory basi. Early marriages will be reduced drasticcaly that way.

  3. WITH increasing poverty levels in malawi this is a non~starter. You cannot jail someone for ten years out of a mutually agreed marriage at seventeen, it is abnormal. Jail sentences will never help but civic education and financial support to vulnerables

  4. ndadabwa says:

    patricia ndiiwedi kholo. congratulations. i salute you

  5. gaba says:

    kodi mtsikana akalowelera mnyamata mphala mwake mtsikanayo azilandila chilango chotani?

  6. Kelvin says:

    Mwana amene oti adzakwatidwe ndi zaka 18 wako kapena wanga ?waine ndizakwatitsa ndi 16 ukanene kulikonse wamva iwe PATRICIA !!

  7. Kanyimbi says:

    Tizingopanga nkhalamba basi. Moreover nkhalamba sizimafuna zambiri bola gondolosi basi.

  8. child advocate says:

    Bravo the Parliament. But Kaliati what then do we do with Section 22 of the Constitution that still allows girls to marry at 15 years with parental consent?

  9. yungsai says:

    lets help malawi and our girls to procceed wit gud studies.child abuse is all over malawi mostly in balaka,machinga,mangochi,tyolo and some dstricts.i thnk we can do more than thnkng of marrying them.good education leads into a bright future.

  10. yungsai says:

    lets help malawi and our girls to procceed wit gud studies.child abuse is over malawi mostly in balaka,machinga,mangochi,tyolo and some dstricts.i thnk we can do more than thnkng of marrying them.good education leads into a bright future.

  11. miky says:

    this is a very good move indeed, but lets make certain the laws should reach out to local people in the villages. There are some cases especially of this kind where by some people commit out of ignorance.

  12. ana a kwa namphungo, mulanje,thyolo,zomba,phalombe m’mene akutotela muyesa angaimve 19yrs bola 12yrs ki-ki-kiiii!

  13. alukosyo says:

    Kaliati nkhope mwayipaka plaster Kodi?

  14. alukosyo says:

    who will police this?

    1. freespch says:

      Chiefs should be answerable and take to task parents who break the law. Birth certificates should come in force or chiefs should record births like used to be in the past.

  15. Yesaya Dziko says:

    Indeed alot has to be done. Most of our under aged girls are already hard core prostitutes.Malawi needs mindset change in many areas

  16. ezekiwe utwag says:

    Unless people are civic educated on new marruage law to be signed by APM the situation will remain the same. Many early marriages are happening in rural areas due to lack of parental support, poor learning environment, paying primary and secondary education.

  17. For this to work, let’s break the culture of silence in Malawi, u can bare wit me that even with the nasty behaviour of men impreginating their step daughters has reached an alarming point but very little is being reported & done with. On the other hand i think our constitution need an overhaul coz somewhere it’s not up to the times.

  18. Nyani wa ku Mwananyani says:

    Ms. Kaliati is one person, as minister, always punches above her weight. Her record on advancing women’s rights is unmatched by anybody’s. This issue transcends culture (read tribe); and the minister needs to be congratulated.
    But just watch her: she will not rest on her laurels. Never. She’s one of the greatest achievers in her DPP; in spite of the fact that she does not her an academic degree. She was not born that way; she has just learned politics over time. And she knows she will be judged by outcomes of her efforts. Big lesson to Ms. Kabwila-Kapasula, the political rookie?

  19. Tengupenya says:

    New law will apply from date it is effective. What does this new law say on Children already in marriage? Are there any transitional arrangements covering such children?

  20. ABUDUO ONANI says:

    Do you think this law will work when primary education is not compulsary for every child in this country? All parents who don’t send their children to school should be punished and you will see more children spending much of their time in school there by delaying early marriages. But this law on its own I don’t think it will work

  21. pina says:

    Ikhale 25. At that age you would have finished high school and university.

  22. wanda says:

    Thumb up! Good job there, but there is need to take decisive measures to ensure that the law is really put into full action. Punitive measures are necessary, especially in the first years of action because it the nature of man to resist change, though in this case is a positive change. Malawi need the girl child in schools till she is physically, socially and economically fit to enter into marriage. This will reduce maternal death, population growth and violence against women and girls. Let the law chew anyone who dare to challenge it.

  23. Kaliati Galu says:

    Kaliati asationongere chikhalidwe chathu popeza iye kwake kunatha. Mumufunse iye anakwatiwa ndi zaka zingati? Zinali 11. Nanga kuipako wakuona pano? Asaaah!!!!!!

  24. observer says:

    Shaaa! Zitivutatu zimenezi. Ma sweet 16 samavuta.

    1. Tengupenya says:

      Lam uli likuletsa kukwatira. Nanga kodi minimum age ya ku gonana ayiyika pa chani? Vuto limayambira pamenepa. Nawonso ayike Ndithu pa 18 and above. Statutory rape punishable by imprisonment of minimum of zaka zambiri inhale koi for all children under 18.

  25. ujeni says:

    Kaliati, when and where are you hosting a dinner dance now that a bill has been passed. It seems thats the DPP way of running government. A little work here, party at night with fireworks next, are you people insane or what?

  26. ujeni says:

    What is needed more is civic education on civilisation, development and human rights otherwise even with such a law we have huge number of our population who are ignorant of what is right or wrong. A good example is Lhomwe armed robbers, they know armed robbery is a crime and punishable by jail sentence, but they still do it.

  27. Malipeya says:


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