UN agency partners Botswana to end child marriages: official

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The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has partnered with Botswana’s ministry of health and wellness in a bid to end child marriages and gender based violence, an official said Saturday.

Boago Makatane, UNFPA’s program specialist, told an Action for Adolescent Girls workshop in Francistown, Botswana’s second largest city, that female genital mutilation must end in order to achieve transformative goals.

Latest statistics show that 1,644 children were found to be in marriage relationships while 3,748 were living in cohabitation in the southern African country, said Makatane.

“Sixty percent of the 1,644 were made of children aged between 12 and 15 years while the remainder is 16 to 17 year olds,” said Makatane, adding that of the 3,748 children who are cohabiting, 41 percent were 12 to 16 year olds while 59 percent were 16 to 17 year olds.

He said both the age range for the married and cohabiting children are below the legal age of consent, which is 18 years old.

Early last year, Botswana passed a law to increase the age for legal age of consent from 16 to 18 years.

The law was expected to address incidences of defilement, abuse of children, abductions, indecent assault and kidnapping of children among others, Victor Paledi, the permanent secretary in the ministry of defense, justice and security, said.

Paledi said child marriage is a toxic product of poverty and gender inequality because girls in child marriages tend to be less educated and live in rural areas.

“Many impoverished parents believe that marriage will secure their daughters’ future by ensuring that another family will be responsible for their care. This is also true in humanitarian crises when many parents fear they will be unable to protect their daughters,” he said.

According to the UNFPA website, the global body conducts advocacy through working with policymakers and parliamentarians to enact laws against child marriages and to increase the minimum age at marriage to 18 for young women.

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