The law as a tool for changing gender norms affecting adolescent girls

Toolkits
August 2015
Rachel Marcus and Sophie Brodbeck
This Research and practice note explores the power of legal reforms and implementation in changing gender norms that affect adolescent girls, focusing specifically on child marriage practices. The note draws on research insights from Ethiopia, Nepal, Uganda and Viet Nam, each of which have taken significant steps to prevent child marriage through a combination of laws on the minimum age at marriage, and education.

First exploring the factors that enhance the power of the law, the note outlines a series of conditions under which progressive change in norms around child marriage is more likely to occur, including when officials are prepared to implement the law (intervening to prevent child marriage and punishing offenders, in some contexts), even at the risk of criticism within their communities. It also offers insights into challenges related to public acceptance and the implementation of child marriage laws, such as when the justice system is inaccessible and unaffordable, or when people perceive officials and the justice system as corrupt, leading to underreporting.

These insights, in addition to links to related literature and relevant ODI reports, provide an in-depth note on the power of legal reforms and the many considerations to take into account when seeking to use the law as a tool for change.