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Cablegate: Child Marriage in Mozambique

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

UNCLAS MAPUTO 000354

SIPDIS
DEPT FOR AF/S JDIFFILY, G/IWI LKHADIAGALA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ELAB PHUM PGOV SCUL SOCI KWMN MZ
SUBJECT: CHILD MARRIAGE IN MOZAMBIQUE

REF: STATE 36341

1. Mozambique's new Family Law, which entered into force
in October 2004, sets the minimum age for civil marriage at
21 for those who marry without their parents' consent.
Parental consent is compulsory for civil marriage for
persons aged 18 through 20. With parental consent and under
exceptional conditions (pregnancy, for example), it is
possible to get married at 16 years old. The new Family Law
applies equally for men and women. The new law marks a
significant departure from pre-existing policy, which
established the minimum age for civil marriage at 16 for
boys and 14 for girls.

2. Dependable statistics for child marriage in Mozambique
are not available. However, a 2003 study by the Mozambican
Women Lawyers Association (AMMJC), carried out during the
preparation process for the new Family Law, shows that the
practice is common in remote rural areas and in Muslim
communities. Underage marriage is considered more or less
equally common in the poorer African Muslim communities and
the relatively wealthy South Asian Muslim community. To
spread awareness of the new Family Law into communities, the
Ministry of Social Action organized three regional workshops
in 2004. In workshop seminars, the Ministry specifically
focused on disadvantages that early marriage entails for
girls, such as less access to education and low future
incomes in agriculture and small business.

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3. There are currently no USG-funded initiatives to reduce
the effects of child marriage in Mozambique. The USG does
have several development programs targeted toward girls and
young women. Within the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS
Relief, USAID carries out a range of prevention and care
programs targeted to young women; several of these programs
address basic life skills and choices. On another front,
starting in FY05, the Ambassador's Scholarship fund will
provide primary school scholarships and basic educational
materials to 6,000 economically vulnerable girls. Also, in
FY04 the Embassy has provided DHRF grants to two community
organizations that will be disseminating information on the
2004 Family Law. These programs have potential for
incorporating discussion of child marriage, but it unclear
whether such activity would be appropriate in all cases.
LA LIME

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