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Sri Lanka

Taux de mariages d'enfants
UNICEF 2017 % mariées avant l’âge de 15 ans
2%
UNICEF 2017 % mariées avant l’âge de 18 ans
12%

* Références

Fait référence au pourcentage de femmes âgées de 20 à 24 ans qui ont été mariées ou en concubinage avant le l’âge de 15 ou 18 ans.

Photo credit: Russell Watkins | Department for International Development

Taux de mariages d'enfants
UNICEF 2017 % mariées avant l’âge de 15 ans
2%
UNICEF 2017 % mariées avant l’âge de 18 ans
12%

* Références

Fait référence au pourcentage de femmes âgées de 20 à 24 ans qui ont été mariées ou en concubinage avant le l’âge de 15 ou 18 ans.

What's the child marriage rate? How big of an issue is child marriage?

According to the most recent available data from 2006, 12% of girls in Sri Lanka are married before the age of 18 and 2% are married before their 15th birthday.

The median age at first marriage is lowest in Anuradhapura.

Are there country-specific drivers of child marriage in this country?

Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that women and girls are somehow inferior to men and boys. In Sri Lanka, child marriage is also driven by:

  • Pre-marital sex: Some families marry off young girls who engage in pre-marital sex as a way of “safeguarding” their honour. A 2013 UNICEF study notes that there is significant social pressure on girls to consent to such marriages once knowledge of their relationship has become public.
  • Violence against girls: Statutory rape and child marriage are closely linked in Sri Lanka. In such cases, marriage to the perpetrator is seen as a better option than risking being seen as “loose” or “immoral”. In some scenarios, child marriage is considered a better solution even though it means the loss of education and childhood for young girls. In such cases, marriages either take the form of cohabitation and are legalised later, or families falsify documents to facilitate the marriage.
  • Tradition: A report from the Muslim Women’s Research and Action Forum notes that the practice of kaikuli (gifts given by the bride’s parents to the bridegroom) has reduced Muslim marriage in Sri Lanka to a “transaction” between buyer and seller. This can dehumanise young girls forced to participate.
  • Natural disasters: According to Plan, some girls have been pressured into marriages with widowers following the 2004 tsunami.
  • Armed conflict: In Anuradhapura, Jaffna and Batticoloa districts, and in former conflict areas in the North and East, some families marry off their daughters for physical and financial protection.

What has this country committed to?

Sri Lanka has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. However the government did not report on progress made against target 5.3 during its 2018 Voluntary National Review at the High Level Political Forum, the mechanism through which countries report their progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.

Sri Lanka ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1981, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

Sri Lanka is a member of the South Asian Initiative to End Violence against Children (SAIEVAC) which adopted a regional action plan to end child marriage from 2015-2018.

Representatives of the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), including Sri Lanka, asserted the Kathmandu Call to Action to End Child Marriage in Asia in 2014. As part of its commitment, Sri Lanka will ensure access to legal remedies for child brides and establish a uniform minimum legal age of marriage of 18.

During its 2017 Universal Periodic Review, Sri Lanka supported recommendations to review the absence of a minimum age for marriage under Muslim law.

What is the government doing to address this at the national level?

In 2016 the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs launched the National Action Plan to Address Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2016 – 2020. It was produced in collaboration with civil society groups and UN agencies, and includes plans to combat child sexual exploitation, including the prevention of early marriage.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

There are conflicts between the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act and secular laws on marriage in Sri Lanka.
The General Marriage Registration Ordinance 1997 sets the minimum age of marriage at 18, although a minor may still be married with the consent of parties.

The Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act has no minimum legal age of marriage and allows children under the age of 12 to be married where special approval is given by quazis (magistrate or judge of a Sharia court).

Source

Department of Census and Statistics and Ministry of Healthcare and Nutrition, Sri Lanka Demographic and Health Survey 2006-07, 2009,  (accessed May 2018)

ECPAT Sri Lanka and Protecting Environment and Children Everywhere, Alternative Report Submitted for the Examination of Sri Lanka’s State Party’s Fifth and Sixth Combined periodic Report under Article 44 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 2017, (accessed February 2018)

Ministry of Women and Child Affairs, Policy Framework and National Plan of Action to address Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Sri Lanka 2016-2020, 2016, (accessed February 2018)

Muslim Women’s Action and Research Forum Sri Lanka, Report to the Global Movement for Equality and Justice for Muslim Women, [undated], (accessed February 2018)

Plan Canada and CEO Notebook, Ending Child Marriage – A Challenge to the Commonwealth, 2011, [unpublished]

South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children, [website], 2018,  (accessed February 2018)

The Women and Media Collective Colombo, Sri Lanka Shadow Report to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, 2010, (accessed February 2018)

UNICEF, Emerging Concerns and Case Studies on Child Marriage in Sri Lanka, 2013, (accessed February 2018)

UN Child Rights Committee, Concluding Observations: Sri Lanka, 2010, (accessed February 2018)

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Sri Lanka, 2017, p.18, (accessed February 2018)

United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, (accessed February 2018)

Fait référence au pourcentage de femmes âgées de 20 à 24 ans qui ont été mariées ou en concubinage avant le l’âge de 15 ou 18 ans.