Child brides in Malawi are increasingly being pushed into prostitution as growing numbers of early marriages break down, NGOs working with children have claimed.
Although child marriage is illegal, nearly half of girls in the country are wed before their eighteenth birthday and 9 percent before they turn 15, according to the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF.
But a report by Reuters citing NGOs working with children claims that many child marriages are collapsing as poverty and unemployment drive tens of thousands of young Malawian men to seek work in South Africa.
“Many girls don’t survive early marriages, either because they face abuse and violence by their older partners, or because they are abandoned by men who go to South Africa,” Forbes Msiska, executive director of Badilika a local NGO supporting vulnerable girls with vocational training has been quoted as saying.
Maxwell Matewele, executive director of the charity Eye of the Child, said there had been a visible increase in the number of children forced into prostitution. He said most girls were aged 14 to 18 years, but that he had come across some as young as nine.
The report claims that prostitution is increasingly pitching up in rural settlements as competition in urban areas drives sex workers to find new clients. However, the report did not indicate whether the proliferation of sex work in these locations directly relates to the rise in child marriages or child prostitution.