Day 16: Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 16 (English)
  1. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during the marriage and at its dissolution.
  2. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
  3. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

ዓንቀጽ 16

  1. ዓቕሚ ኣዳምን ሄዋንን ዝበጽሑ ደቂ-ተባዕትዮን ደቂ-ኣንስትዮን ኣብ ዓሌት፡ ዜግነት ወይ ሃይማኖት ዝምርኮስ ገደብ ኣወጊዶም ክምርዓዉን ስድራቤት ክምስርቱን መሰል ኣለዎም። ንመርዓ፡ ሓዳርን ፍትሕን፡ ደቀንስትዮኦም ደቂተባዕትዮኦም፡ ማዕረ ዝኾነ መሰል ኣለዎም።
  2. ሓዳር ብስምምዕን ምሉእ ድሌትን ተጻመድቲ ጥራይ ይፍጸም።
  3. ስድራቤት እታ ባህርያዊትን መሰረታዊትን ጉጅለ ናይ ሕብረተሰብ ኮይና ብሕብረተሰብን ሃገርን ውሕስነት ይወሃባ።

Article 16 is basically a right given to every human being to get married and have family at a free will and full consent of the intending spouses. Marriage is a universal right that belongs to all sexes without discrimination. Because of religious rules or other social constraints, Article 16 is always in danger, especially for the LGBT community. Many countries prohibit legal marriage of same-sex though they accept in principle the right to marry and have a family.

Another difficult is child marriage. Though Article 16 does not specify the exact minimum age limit, it is generally understood that marriage should be between adults. Some countries have laws which limit the minimum to get married. For example, Eritrea has issued a declaration who limits the minimum age to be 18. Proclamation No. 1/1991 of the Eritrean government noted that any contract of marriage made between persons (spouses) below 18 years of age is null and void which can to serious punishment.

Though Eritrea has no specific law that targets the LGBT community, let alone for marriage, the regime which is currently ruling Eritrea has zero tolerance towards the same-sex relationship. There is unconfirmed information that says gays have been detained without trial and persecuted simply because of their sexual orientation.

Eritrea: Challenges related to Article 16

  1. Under-Age Marriage: Though there is a law that prohibits under-age marriage, the practice is common among the rural communities. The most vulnerable are women. because of poverty and religious constraints, women face serious constraints of equal opportunity as those of men. This exposes them to early marriage.
age and marriage
1 Proclamation No. 1/1991 of the GoSE specifies that any contract of marriage made between persons (spouses) below 18 years of age is null void and that the spouses and witnesses to such marriage shall be punishable under the Penal Code (Art.614); and article 158/2007 to abandoned FGM/C. 2. Child marriage is a problem in Eritrea, and marriage occurs relatively earlier for girls. The EPHS 2010 indicates that among women aged 20-24: 13 percent were married by age 15, and 41 percent were married by age 18 (EPHS 2010) Source: Ending Child Marriage and Harmful Traditional Practices from Eritrea; September 7-11, 2015; Radisson BLU Hotel, Lusaka, Zambia



  1. Arranged Marriage: Eritreans are traditional families. Parents have an ultimate power to decide the fate of marriage. Even if the intended espouses are ready to do it at their free will, parents may reject the decision. If espouses did not comply, then they may face rejection and discrimination. As most young Eritreans are highly dependent on their parents, it is not simple espouses to decide for themselves.
  2. Silent Social Discrimination: Though these days social discrimination is reduced to a great extent, there are different forms of discriminations that had deep roots among Eritrean communities. Some societies have a kind of, “social caste system” which applies a systematic prohibition for marriage between the different castes. Some of them are based on social class status while others are racial. Today’s generation has little concern for such kind of discrimination. The problem comes from the parents. If the parents are very traditional and conservative, such discrimination is strong.
  3. Religion: Because of religious diversity and cohabitation, often there is an incidence where espouses come from different religions. As discussed above, parents can implicate the marriage and not complying with family advice causes rejection or social discrimination. The one who converts his/her religion becomes the most vulnerable for such social pressures.
  4. Discrimination against same-sex marriage: In general, Eritreans are conservative society. Christianity and Islam have a strong influence the way Eritreans live. Let alone same-sex marriage, discrimination exists in its strongest sense if someone is known to belong as LGBT.
  5. Government Interference: It is not unusual to see the Eritrean government interfere in espouses decision and family life. In the last 20 years(since 1998), there are so many documented and undocumented incidences which violate the rights of Eritrean intended espouses being violated. For example, because of forced conscription and prolonged national service, many young Eritreans were unable to decide for their life. And, families are forced to live separately because of the forced assignment of the workplace which brings inconvenience to have a normal family life. As a result, many children live with one parent.

For further context: please follow my presentation below

For further readings


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