Malawi has made tremendous progress in recent years toward the goal of ending child marriage. In 2015, Malawi adopted the Marriage, Divorce, and Family Relations Act, which set 18 as the legal minimum age for marriage, and in February 2017, a legal loophole allowing children between the ages of 15 and 18 to marry with parental consent was closed with an amendment to the Constitution.
Despite this recent progress, child marriage (marriage to a person less than 18 years old) remains a key development challenge in Malawi. Malawi has the 11th highest rate of child marriage in the world, and the 9th highest rate in Africa.2 In Malawi, 47 per cent of women marry before the age of 18, and 12 per cent before the age of 15.3 Typically, the age at first birth is about one year after marriage. As a consequence, Malawi’s teenage pregnancy rate is very high – 29 per cent of girls aged 15-19 have begun childbearing.
This brief provides an overview of the evidence on child marriage in Malawi and makes recommendations for policy and practice based on a synthesis of research.