Health workers described to Human Rights Watch the reproductive health harms and risks of early pregnancy when girls marry young, including maternal death, obstetric fistula, premature delivery, and anaemia.Malawi’s maternal mortality rate is high at 675 deaths per 100,000 live births.A 14-year-old girl holds her baby at her sister’s home in a village in Kanduku, in Malawi’s Mwanza district.
Chaonaine’s husband paid her parents MK 8,000 (US) as dowry. But my mother and sister pressured me to marry my boyfriend because they wanted to get money…. I left my husband because the beating became too much. I went to my sister and my mother but they chased me away and told me to return to him. “My grandmother and sister wanted me to marry a trader by the lakeside. They threatened me to leave the house if I did not marry the man. I did not want to marry but I agreed because of poverty at home.“I got married because I wanted to end my problems. My parents are separated and I have nine siblings.” -Zulu K., 14, was married four months before Human Rights Watch interviewed her, Chikwawa district, September 18, 2013. A friend of mine agreed to accommodate me and my child for three months. I went to my mother’s sister but she also said I had to marry him or leave the house. During the marriage ceremony, I was told to respect my husband and never to deny him sex.Her 15-year-old sister, in the background, married when she was 12. (Lilongwe) – The government of Malawi should increase efforts to end widespread child and forced marriage, or risk worsening poverty, illiteracy, and preventable maternal deaths in the country, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today, ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, 2014.According to government statistics, half of the girls in Malawi will be married by their 18th birthday, with some as young as age 9 or 10 being forced to marry.During the same period, another 14,051 primary school girls and 5,597 secondary school girls dropped out because they were pregnant.
In Malawi, the literacy rate for men is 74 percent; for women it is 57 percent.Some girls who rejected forced marriages said they were threatened, verbally abused, or thrown out of their homes by their families.Others said they were verbally abused or physically assaulted by their husbands and in-laws.Malawi’s first woman president, Joyce Banda, who took office in April 2012, should publicly support prompt enactment of the Marriage, Divorce, and Family Relations Bill (Marriage Bill), which includes vital protections against child marriage, Human Rights Watch said.The 69-page report, “‘I’ve Never Experienced Happiness’: Child Marriage in Malawi,”documents how child marriage prevents girls and women from participating in all spheres of life.The proposed Marriage Law would fix 18 as the clear minimum age of marriage for girls and boys, addressing a major shortfall in Malawi’s efforts to protect girls against child marriage.