Academic journal article Law, Social Justice and Global Development Journal

Access to Social Protection Minimum Floors as a Tool to End Early Marriage in Mozambique

Academic journal article Law, Social Justice and Global Development Journal

Access to Social Protection Minimum Floors as a Tool to End Early Marriage in Mozambique

Article excerpt


Mozambique is located along the Indian Ocean in Southern Africa. It has an estimated population of 25 million, 52 per cent of whom are children (Republic of Mozambique, 2008). In 1992 a peace agreement brought an end to 15 years of civil strife. The country held its first democratic elections in 1994. In more recent years political stability and democratic governance have paved the way for sustained socio-economic development (World Bank, 2015). Mozambique now ranks among the top ten fastest growing economies in the world. The country has been recognized as an example of post-war reconstruction and economic recovery in Africa (IMF, 2016).

Notwithstanding its achievements Mozambique has remained a poor country, ranking 180 out of 188 in the 2015 Human Development Index. Life expectancy is approximately 52.6 years and is highly influenced by a HIV/AIDS prevalence of 13.5 per cent among adults aged 15-49 (INE, 2015).

Disaggregated data show that the prevalence is much higher for women (9.8 per cent) than for men (3.2 per cent). It is estimated that 6.9 per cent of young people aged 15-24 are infected with HIV. Almost two million children, i.e. approximately 15 per cent of the total number of children, are orphans because of HIV, chronic illness or poverty related reasons (where one or both parents have abandoned the child to work elsewhere) (GARPR, 2014). Although Mozambique ratified, in 1994, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is one of the seven countries in the world that count very high levels of early marriage (ICRW, 2010).

According to the Demographic Health Survey (DHS) of 2011,14.3 per cent of Mozambican girls between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before the age of 15. The proportion of girls in the same age group that married before 18 is 48.2 per cent (MISAU, 2011). This would indicate that in 2011, 62.5 per cent of the girls between 20 and 24 entered into marriage before they turned 18.

The research that has been conducted thus far is inclined to look at early marriage as a social and medical issue. Thus far, very few people have taken a legal approach. This article intends to contribute to this lacuna and examines early marriage from the angle of social security law. It seeks to explore to what extent social protection floors (SPFs), as translated into Mozambican law, could offer an avenue to combat the problem of early marriage in Mozambique. The central question is whether the current Mozambican non-contributory social security system is adequate to protect a girl child from early marriage. The article draws on data from the Demographic Health Surveys of the Government of Mozambique (DHS) of 1997, 2003, 2011; Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2008; Census Projections from the National Institute of Statistics (INE) 2007; and data from the Ministry of Education. The focus is on two main age groups: first, 16 to 18 year old girls, who can, as is shown below, enter into a legal marriage as an exception to the general rule that one should be 18 and, second, those under 16, whose marriages are merely based on customary practice and are not legally permitted.

Some facts and figures on early marriage in Mozambique

The above mentioned national average of 62.5 per cent of Mozambican girls having married before the age of 18 hides major differences between the provinces. The table below illustrates that the highest rates of early marriage are found in the northern provinces. In Niassa, for example, 24.4 per cent of girls aged 20-24 were married before they turned 15 years old, as opposed to the national average of 14.3 per cent. The provinces that have the largest numbers of girls getting married in their teens are Nampula and Cabo-Delgado, with 62.2 per cent and 60.7 per cent of girls getting married between 15 and 18 years of age respectively. Also, almost all indicators are high in the rural areas and the north and center of the country, compared with the urban areas and the south (World Bank, 2015). …

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