Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 06:52 GMT

Botswana: Information on forced marriages; state protection available

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 18 July 2011
Related Document Botswana : information sur les mariages forcés; la protection de l'État offerte
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Botswana: Information on forced marriages; state protection available, 18 July 2011, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Information on forced marriages in Botswana was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, a variety of sources mention the existence of forced marriages and efforts to prevent them (BOCONGO Oct. 2009, 51-52; Botswana 20 Oct. 2008, para. 228-229; The Monitor 9 June 2008; DITSHWANELO n.d.). A shadow report by the Botswana Council of Non-governmental Organisations (BOCONGO) on the Botswana government's efforts to implement the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) states that "[t]here are still parts of the country where young girls have been forced into marriage, to their detriment" (BOCONGO Oct. 2009, 51). The shadow report adds:

The pressures of marriage means that these children are unable to continue their education as they are being forced into adulthood and they end up being dependant on their husband for support, since they end up with no skills to earn their own income. These are some of the customs and practises that are perpetuated in spite of existing statutory laws protecting women and girls against discrimination. (ibid., 51-52)

According to DITSHWANELO, the Botswana Centre for Human Rights, marriage in Botswana is governed either by customary or common law (n.d.). In an undated article on its website, DITSHWANELO explains that "although Common Law does not allow persons below the age of 18 to marry, under Customary Law a child can be married, which often results in girls being forced into marrying someone against their will." DITSHWANELO adds that once married, the girls "are also forced to leave school" (n.d.).

In contrast, in a 2008 report on its implementation of CEDAW, Botswana authorities state that, whether under customary or common law, the choice of a spouse in "most cases" is "voluntary" (Botswana 20 Oct. 2008, para. 228). They also indicate that forced marriages take place "only in isolated instances" (ibid.). The Botswana authorities add that in those cases where marriage is forced,

there has been some condemnation of the parents of involved young women, especially if they are still in school. The traditional practice of arranged marriages through betrothal (peeletso), is no longer permissible as it adversely affected women usually involved with elderly men. In such cases the girl-child has no say as the matter would have been concluded with her parents. If she is a minor, the law allows the parents to consent on her behalf. (ibid.)

However, the authorities also state that,

[m]arriage officers cannot readily ascertain whether consent to marriage was given freely or not because parents are given the latitude to decide what is in the best interest of their child and if they readily consent there is no reason for the marriage officer to doubt. This practice could deny girls the right of choice and independent decision making. (ibid., para. 229)

Botswana's Children's Act, 2009, which received assent on 16 June 2009, defines a child as "any person who is below the age of 18 years" (Botswana 2009, Art. 2). The Act Act also states that "[a] child shall not be subjected, by any person, to … a forced marriage" (ibid, Art. 62(2)a). A 2008 article from the Botswana daily newspaper The Monitor explains that part of the draft bill on children's rights then under discussion stipulated that "[p]arents found to be engaged in harmful social, cultural and religious practices such as forced marriage … will face the wrath of the law" (9 June 2008). The Children's Act, 2009 itself states that the penalty for a person who contravenes certain provisions of the Act, including the provision that deals with forced marriages, will be either or both a prison term of from seven to ten years or a fine of between 30,000 Botswana pula (P) [4,308.92 Canadian dollars (CAD) (XE 15 July 2011a)] to P50,000 [7,168.81 CAD (XE 15 July 2011b)] (Botswana 2009, Art. 64).

Further information on the implementation of the law and its impact on the custom of forcing girls into marriage could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Botswana. 2009. Children's Act, 2009. (African Child Law Reform) [Accessed 12 July 2011]

_____. 20 October 2008. Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women: Combined Initial, Second and Third Periodic Reports of States Parties: Botswana. (CEDAW/C/BOT/3) ( [Accessed 14 July 2011]

Botswana Council of Non-governmental Organisations (BOCONGO). October 2009. Botswana NGOs Shadow Report to CEDAW: The Implementation of the Convention. (Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria) [Accessed 8 July 2011]

DITSHWANELO, The Botswana Centre for Human Rights. N.d. "Gender Equality." [Accessed 8 July 2011]

The Monitor [Gaborone]. 9 June 2008. "Government Gives More Rights to Children, No Responsibilities." [Accessed 12 July 2011] 15 July 2011a. "Currency Converter." [Accessed 21 June 2011]

_____. 15 July 2011b. "Currency Converter." [Accessed 21 June 2011]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Attempts to contact representatives of the Emang Basadi Women's Association, DITSHWANELO, the Kagisano Society Women's Shelter Project and Women Against Rape were unsuccessful. The Botswana satellite office of Gender Links did not have information for this Response.

Internet sites, including: Africa for Women's Rights; Amnesty International; The Botswana Gazette; Daily News; European Country of Origin Information Network; Gender Links; Human Rights Watch; Mmegi OnlineMmegi Online; United Kingdom Home Office; United Nations Integrated Regional Information Networks, UN Secretary-General's Database on Violence Against Women, Refworld; United States Department of State.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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