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16 June 2015

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CHILD MARRIAGES A PROBLEM IN BOTSWANA

indexThe Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) joins the world in commemorating the Day of the African Child under the theme “25 Years after the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Accelerating our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage in Africa”.

Since 2006, BONELA has been implementing a children’s rights project to empower parents, service providers and children on children’s rights and their responsibilities, to facilitate the fulfillment of their right to development; survival; protection and participation. Having learnt critical lessons from the previous years; in 2015, BONELA embarked on a project aimed at strengthening the provisions of the Botswana Children‘s Act of 2009, which is aligned to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRW).  

Since the start of the project; BONELA continues to see disturbing increase of cases of child marriage in Botswana. Children are married at a young age and find themselves in situations that undermine their childhood development. Although the Botswana Marriage Act of 2001, indicate 18 years as the legal age for marriage; BONELA has so far recorded 3 cases of Batswana girls aged between 10-18 years who have been married off by their parents. All the 3 cases are from the Bazezuru tribe.

Child marriages cases are deeply rooted in the religious and cultural norms and practices that do not recognize children’s rights. Children should be afforded the opportunity to be children without subjecting them to inhumane and cruel acts that deprive them of proper development, thus making them vulnerable to diseases such as HIV, STI and cervical cancer. Equally disturbing is the reported increase in teenage pregnancies across the country. In 2014 Letlhakeng District alone, recorded 36 cases of teenage pregnancy affecting girls under the age of 12 years.

We, therefore, call upon all stakeholders, including parents, teachers, social workers and the police to work collaboratively to ensure protection, fulfillment of children’s rights. Furthermore, we call on the Government of Botswana to provide the necessary structures to preventing child’s marriages as provided for in the Children’s Act of 2009.

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