MALAWI GIRLS BEING MARRIED OFF AT AGE 12
Malawi acts against child brides.
Aids has left many children orphaned and vulnerable. The government of Malawi is considering raising the legal age of marriage in the country to 18 as a result of a growing number of cases of young girls being forced to marry much older men. The legal age of marriage in country is currently 15, but many man are illegally marrying girls as young as 11 or 12. As a result, the average age of marriage in Malawi is among the world's lowest, while the percentage of teenage mothers is among the world's highest.
Maxwell Matewere, executive director of The Eye Of The Child organisation which fights for children's rights in Malawi, told BBC World Service's Outlook programme that the issue was forcing the country to question itself. "We strongly believe that the incidents of children being forced into marriage are growing by the day - but for people to report this is a taboo," he explained. "It brings shame to the community, so they prefer to keep the information within the communities. "This really does not help the process of protecting the children."
Last year, Malawi's government trained 230 volunteers in ways to protect children, and began efforts to more vigorously enforce the legal minimum age for marriage. Mr Matewere said that HIV and Aids in the country have greatly increased the number of orphans, as well as increasing the number of vulnerable children. Poverty is also a major factor, he said - something confirmed by one 12-year-old who has married a man aged 43.
BBC NEWS REPORT - WORLD SERVICE OUTLOOK