Malawi has officially banned child marriages

Malawian President Peter Mutharika has signed into law a ban on child marriage, months after lawmakers passed a bill raising the marrying age to 18.

Rights activists say Malawi has one of the world’s highest rates of child marriage, with some girls as young as nine or ten are married off even though the marriage age was previously set at 16.

The new law carries a 10-year prison sentence for anyone who marries under the age of 18.

A coalition of local and international NGOs promoted the bill, saying child marriage traps girls, their families and communities into a cycle of inter-generational poverty.

Women rights campaigners hailed the move as “a great day for Malawian girls” and said the law would help boost development in one of the world’s poorest countries.

But they warned Malawi would not end child marriage without concerted efforts to tackle poverty and end harmful traditional practices like early sexual initiations.