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Cablegate: Sri Lanka: Child Marriage Not Common

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

150817Z Mar 05

UNCLAS COLOMBO 000534

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SA, SA/INS AND G/IWI FOR KHADIAGALA
NSC FOR DORMANDY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM ECON ELAB PGOV SCUL SOCI KWMN CE
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: CHILD MARRIAGE NOT COMMON

REF: STATE 36341

1. (U) Summary. Child marriage is not a significant problem
in Sri Lanka. Under civil law, the legal age of marriage in
Sri Lanka is 18 years old with no provision for marriage at
an earlier age with parental consent. While Muslims follow
their own cultural law and may marry at an earlier age, most
marry after age 18. One mission interlocutor commented that
although the incidence of child marriage is low, some early
marriages occur in the impoverished, rural Muslim community
in the Eastern Province and in the poor tea-estate Tamil
community in central Sri Lanka. There is not a U.S.
Government-funded program in place to combat the limited
incidence of child marriage in Sri Lanka. End Summary.


Child Marriage Illegal Since 1995
---------------------------------

2. Until 1995, child marriage was legal (and more common) in
Sri Lanka. In 1995, the Government amended the penal code
to prevent child marriage with the goal of enhancing
protection to women and children vulnerable to physical and
sexual abuse, according to Lawyers for Human Rights and
Development (LHRD), a non-governmental organization (NGO)
working on child abuse issues. Under current civil law, the
legal age of marriage for men and women in Sri Lanka is 18
years-old; there is no provision for marriage at an earlier
age with parental consent.

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3. (U) Muslim and indigenous Veddah communities, however,
follow their own cultural laws, and boys and girls may marry
at an earlier age. According to adolescent and reproductive
health NGO "Policy," only 9 percent of Muslim women marry at
an age younger than 20. There are no reliable marriage
statistics for the very small Veddah community.

Child Marriage Not Common
-------------------------

4. (U) While statistics about child marriage are
unavailable, Mission interlocutors agree that the practice is
not a significant problem in Sri Lanka. Harendra de Silva,
Director of the National Child Protection Authority, told
poloff that the average age of marriage in Sri Lanka is 26
years old for women and almost 29 years old for men. De
Silva commented that although the incidence of child marriage
is low, some early marriages occur in the impoverished, rural
Muslim community in the Eastern Province and in the poor
tea-estate Tamil community. Most Muslim women, he added,
marry after the age of 18. Tahirih Qurratulayn, a Child
Protection Policy Officer at Save the Children, told poloff
that in some cases, children (from all communities) who are
sexually abused are given to their abusers in marriage to
lessen the stigma of the abuse. Qurratulayn noted that this
practice is more common in poor, rural areas and leads to
more incidents of maternal and infant mortality. LHRD
reported that police in many areas advise parents of
statutory rape victims to give their daughters in marriage to
the perpetrator.

5. (U) There is no U.S. Government-funded program in place
to combat the limited incidence of child marriage in Sri
Lanka.
LUNSTEAD

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