The Ministry Gender Equality and Child Welfare is yet to provide a report that reveals Namibia’s stance on child marriage that has been prevailing in the regions where the culture is practiced more frequently.
The Deputy Minister of Gender and Child Welfare Lucia Witbooi said the report is still under evaluation and stakeholders are still to decide the outcome before they make it public.
Namibia has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals.
However, the government did not report on progress made against target 5.3 during its 2018 Voluntary National Review at the High Level Political Forum, the mechanism through which countries report their progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.
Witbooi said the survey started in June 2017 when the Ministry announced plans to conduct a study into the extent of child marriages in Namibia with a view to raising public awareness and developing programmes in response in all the regions.
They have visited region such as the Kavango, Zambezi, Oshana and the Kunene where the culture is still practiced to raise awareness to curb early child marriage and not rob children of their future.
Traditional customs are driving Namibian girls as young as 13 into forced marriages with older men under certain arrangements.
Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that girls and women are somehow inferior to boys and men. There is limited information on child marriage in Namibia, but available studies show that it is driven by traditional customs.
“New laws will also be implemented that will protect and tighten the practice of child marriage in Namibia when the report is availed,“ said Witbooi.
This involves strategies to address the root causes of child marriage, including economic empowerment for families, promotion of social protection, inclusive education and sexual and reproductive services, and enforcement of laws and policies, which criminalise child marriage.
“Child marriages are not a small matter anymore and should be given necessary attention. Child marriages is robbing children of their childhood, education as well as potentials,” said Witbooi.
Namibia’s childcare and protection act states that no person under the age of 21 is allowed to marry.