Malawi has passed a law banning child marriage. The minimum age for marriage has now been lifted to 18.

This is a significant milestone for Malawi, a country where half of the girls typically end up as child brides, Reuters reports.

According to reports, one in eight is married by age 15.

Speaking on the new law, parliamentarian, Jessie Kabwila who helped push for the new legislation said:

“This law is very important because of the number of girls who drop out of school because they are going to get married, and because of the high numbers of girls who are dying when they are giving birth. We cannot talk about development if we have child marriage. Women’s empowerment is a crucial player in development and women cannot be empowered if they are not educated.”

According to reports, child marriage is a cultural norm in Malawi due to the belief that girls should marry as early as possible to maximize their fertility. Girls are also married off early due to poverty, as parents have one less mouth to feed when their daughters leave the home.

Brussels Mughogho, Malawi country director of development charity EveryChild, said, “This is a very important step that we’ve taken, but child marriage will never end with legal instruments alone.”

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