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Cablegate: Dr Congo: Child Marriage Exists

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

UNCLAS KINSHASA 000464

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR G/IWI (L. Khadiagala)
DEPT FOR AF

E.O. 12958; NA
TAGS: ECON ELAB PHUM PGOV SCUL SOCI CG
SUBJECT: DR CONGO: CHILD MARRIAGE EXISTS

REF: STATE 36341

1. (SBU) Response is keyed to reftel.

Begin response:

A) The legal age of marriage is 15 for girls and 18 for
boys. The government is revising the family code, and
experts believe the legal age of marriage for girls
will be raised to 18. There is not a lower legal age
for marriage with parental consent.

B) Underage marriage for girls is widely accepted in
the DRC, and in many rural areas a significant number
of girls get married as early as 13. Dowry payments
greatly contribute to underage marriage and create a
vicious circle for many families. For example, in some
cases, parents marry off a young daughter against her
wishes in order to collect dowry payments to finance a
son's dowry payment to his future wife so he can get
married.

According to a 2001 UNICEF study, the average age of
first marriage for males was 26.0 (28.7 in urban areas
and 24.9 in rural areas). The average age of first
marriage for females was 21.0 (21.0 in urban areas and
20.1 in rural areas). Nearly 97.5% of males aged 15-19
are single (98.6% in urban areas and 96.8% in rural
areas). Only 76.7% of females aged 15-19 are single
(81.9% in urban areas and 76.7% in rural areas).

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C) Underage marriage adversely affects the well-being
of girls because it limits their access to education,
and often leads to unsafe pregnancies or multiple
pregnancies during teenage years.

Although the U.S. does not directly fund initiatives to
address child marriage, USAID has family planning
programs and HIV/AIDs awareness programs that promote
abstinence and waiting until maturity to engage in sex
or get married. USAID partners, including organizations
that work with street children, also educate families
and communities about the importance of keeping girls
in school and taking care of their children. USAID does
not have concrete data about whether these programs
reduce the incidence of child marriage.

End response.

MEECE

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