Burkina Faso: Protect girls from forced marriage

Across Burkina Faso, thousands of girls and young women, some as young as 11, are being forced into early marriage. This has to stop.

At 13, Maria [not her real name] was forced to marry a 70-year-old man who already had five wives. When she resisted, her father told her: “If you don’t go to join your husband, I will kill you.”

Across Burkina Faso, thousands of girls and young women like Maria are being forced into early marriage. More than half of all girls are married off before they turn 18.

They’re expected to have as many children as their husbands want, regardless of their own wishes or the threat that early pregnancy poses to their health and life.

Once married, many are set to cook, clean, fetch water and work in the fields, dawn to dusk. Very few have the chance to go to school.

Some girls are doing all they can to escape forced marriages, despite huge pressure from their families and wider society. Maria walked nearly 170km over three days to seek refuge at a shelter for young girls.

Forced and early marriages are banned by Burkina Faso’s Constitution and international law, but the authorities keep turning a blind eye.

Tell Burkina Faso’s government to protect girls and young women from forced marriages today.

To the Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Burkina Faso

I am deeply concerned about the widespread practice of early and forced marriage in Burkina Faso, and particularly the Sahel region. As you will know, early and forced marriage is banned under your country’s laws, as well as under international and regional human rights treaties to which Burkina Faso is party.

But in practice, studies have shown that at least 52% of girls in Burkina Faso are married before the age of 18, with far-reaching consequences for their health, safety and human rights.

Minister, I urge your government to:

-Enforce and ensure the application of national laws and international obligations banning forced and early marriage.

-Guarantee protection as well as shelter and support services for victims of early and forced marriages.

-Raise awareness in the population about the ban on forced and early marriage, and also about where girls can find assistance if they are at risk.