In line with the 2030, Agenda for Sustainable Development, countries around the world have committed to eliminating forced and child marriage by 2030. The Inter-Religious Council of Kenya (IRCK) in collaboration with Walk Free and Global Freedom Network (GFN) launched a comprehensive guide for faith leaders, equipping them with effective strategies to advocate against the alarming practices of child and forced marriage.
“Many communities continue to practice child and forced marriage in Kenya, despite the negative social and health outcomes it causes, including persistent poverty and inequality. Not only is the practice unlawful – it is not consistent with our religious beliefs.” – Rev. Fr. Joseph Mutie, Inter-Religious Council of Kenya, Chairman The launched material, “Kenyan advocacy on child and forced marriage: A guide for faith leaders” provides practical guidance to equip faith leaders to advocate for strengthening of the national response to forced marriage in Kenya. The development of this guide involved extensive collaboration and consultation with Kenyan theologians and faith leaders, ensuring its authenticity and relevance. It incorporates key advocacy messages rooted in the teachings of Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam, serving as a powerful tool to bolster faith leaders’ advocacy efforts. These messages provide a solid foundation for faith leaders to advocate effectively within their respective communities. Downloaded the guide:
The Inter-Religious Council of Kenya, interfaith youth from the main faith communities in Kenya have committed to using the different digital and social media platforms to speak on forced and child marriages in Kenya with an estimated 269,000 people living in modern slavery according to Walk Free’s 2023 Global Slavery Index; this includes forced labour and marriage. The drivers of forced marriage – including child marriage – in Kenya vary widely across regions and communities, yet common factors include poverty and low economic value placed on girls, lack of education, traditional cultural practices such as female genital mutilation, and adolescent pregnancy. Risks worsened in the context of crises, including natural disasters, conflicts, and epidemics. Inter-Religious Council interfaith youth leaders through an intense social media campaign are using their different digital and social media platforms to tackle this complex social issue by raising awareness, influencing and transforming attitudes to engender lasting positive change.
Kenya has a relatively strong legal framework to combat child marriage: it is one of few countries around the world to explicitly prohibit the marriage of children under 18 with no exceptions, pursuant to the Marriage Act, 2014. However, gaps in the legal framework mean not all forms of forced marriage where consent has not been given have been criminalised. Further, many protections enshrined in national legislation are not fully enforced. These gaps represent key opportunities for faith leaders to advocate for a stronger national response to forced marriage. The guide features advocacy strategies and tools to equip faith leaders in this endeavour. As the umbrella body of main faith communities in Kenya, the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya is committed to supporting faith leaders to conduct advocacy to improve the national response to child and forced marriage, including through legal and policy reforms that strengthen protections and address the underlying socio-cultural norms and structures that allow the practice to occur. Central to this effort is the need for community-based education, training, and empowerment.
In March 2022, GFN and the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya saw faith leaders come together to commit to action to tackle modern slavery in Kenya, by signing the Joint Declaration against Modern Slavery. In July 2022, Walk Free and GFN launched a partnership with the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya to support this effort, with a particular focus on strengthening the government’s response to child and forced marriage.
By Mary Ndulili