Sioka launches child marriage report

Sioka launches child marriage report
Photo credits: 

Minister of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare, Doreen Sioka officially launched the child marriage study report in Windhoek on Thursday.
Sioka said the report found that the main drivers of child marriage were identified as poverty, culture and tradition, early sexual debut, teenage pregnancy, alcohol abuse and lack of educational opportunities.
“The earliest age at first marriage or cohabitation is estimated at 11 years. This is worrisome because the study also found other emerging issues of concern, which include the high rates of cohabitation among teens and teenage pregnancies. We need to stop these trends because these are children that we are talking about. The state of child marriage in Namibia has not been systematically investigated to fill that gap,” she said.
She added that the consequences of child marriage are grave because findings indicate some cases of gender-based violence, poor educational attainment, poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, deprivation of childhood experiences, and abandonment by husbands.
The Namibian Government views child marriage as a cross-cutting issue and recognises that it is a development, cultural, health, and political issue, the minister said.
According to data from the 2013 Namibia Demographic Health Survey, the prevalence of child marriage among women in Namibia is 18,4%, while that for males was considerably lower, 4.1%, she said.
Sioka noted that although data suggest that child marriage is highest in six regions, it does not exclude other regions as the phenomenon occurs in certain pockets of the country.
The highest prevalence of child marriage among girls was reported in the Kavango regions at 39,7%; followed by Kunene with 24%; Zambezi with 23,8%; Omaheke with 23% and Otjozondjupa with 22,6%. The region with the least child marriages was Oshana with 7%. There are more child marriages in rural areas at 22% than in urban areas, which recorded 15%.
“Some may argue that these statistics are very low but for a country like Namibia, it is very high because we are a small population in comparison to other SADC countries. Child marriage robs children of their childhood. We should let children be children so that they can develop their full potential and become productive citizens of this country,” Sioka said.
She said the elimination of child marriage has become an international, continental and national priority, amongst others because adolescent girls continue to die from complications arising from early childbearing.