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SADC drafters approve Model Law on eradicating child marriage

25 March 2015

Photo: Pierre Holtz for UNICEF

Photo: Pierre Holtz for UNICEF

Johannesburg, South Africa – Legal drafters from Southern African Development Community (SADC) Member States have approved the draft Model Law on Eradicating Child Marriage and Protecting Children Already in Marriage. This approval sets the stage for the final adoption of the Model Law by the Plenary Assembly, the highest decision-making body of the SADC Parliamentary Forum.

Drawn from Tanzania, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Zambia, the legal drafters met for over five days in Johannesburg, South Africa to review the draft model law to ensure its compliance with international legal drafting codes and efficacy to the policy and legal objective of eradicating child marriage.

AWEPA welcomes this important step in the adoption of the Model Law on Child Marriage. In cooperation with several parliaments, the SADC Parliamentary Forum and Plan International, AWEPA has been supporting the development and adoption of the Model Law since this process started in 2014.

The development the Model Law has involved wide consultations with various stakeholders in SADC Member States at regional level including parliamentarians, victims of child marriages, civil society organisations and Human Rights Commissions.

As part of its efforts, AWEPA has facilitated the organisation of a regional dialogue on child marriage in Johannesburg in February 2015; a two-day national follow-up workshop on child marriage laws in Zambia in June; a national workshop on Child Marriage Laws in Mozambique in December 2015.

The approval by the legal drafters signals the penultimate stage before the adoption of the model law by parliamentarians from SADC National Parliaments who are scheduled to meet in Swaziland in June 2016 for the 39th Plenary Assembly Session of the SADC-PF.

When adopted, the model law is expected to act as a yardstick providing guidance to legislators, policymakers and other stakeholders in SADC Member States as they develop national laws to eradicate child marriages and protect those already in marriage.

The inspirational law has best practice provisions, making it easy for Member States to adapt or adopt it in keeping with their national situations. The objective is to harmonise the region’s national laws, eradicate loopholes, and ultimately prevent child marriage across the entire region.

Background information

Child marriage is a serious concern in the SADC region. This is driven by many factors including high poverty levels, gender inequity, traditions, religion, limited education, and inadequate and inconsistent legal frameworks across the SADC Member States. Research shows that an estimated 8% of all pregnancies in Southern Africa are teenage pregnancies. In addition, 36% of all maternal deaths involve teenagers while unsafe abortions are responsible for 13% of maternal deaths. This paints a bleak picture in a region in which scores of people including adolescents have poor access to Sexual Reproductive Health Rights services.