Child Marriage in Latin America and the Caribbean
Nearly 1 in 4 girls across Latin America and the Caribbean are married before the age of 18. Girls who are at the highest risk of getting married as a child are usually from poorer homes in rural areas, or from indigenous groups. Latin America and the Caribbean is the only region in the world where there has been no significant decline or change in rates of child marriage in the last 30 years. Perla Vasquez with the Central American Mexican Youth Fund talks to us about child marriage in Latin America and how this discourse differs from other regions of the world.
Due to a lack of data in many countries, the scope of child marriage in Latin America is not known, but there are estimated prevalence rates in countries like Brazil (36%), Mexico (26%), Nicaragua (41%), and Honduras (34%).
Child marriage is not limited specifically to young children and older adults; teenagers often enter early unions with each other or with a slightly older partner, which is a specific characteristic of child marriage in Latin America. Children and teenage girls are especially at risk of early union in Latin America, based on what village they live in and what resources that village may have. Family dynamics and support from the broader community often influence whether a child or teenager will be married early.
In all parts of the world, and in Latin America, teenagers that have entered into unions can’t be left out of receiving sexual and reproductive health resources. Child marriage IS a sexual reproductive health issue; marriage is a vehicle in many countries for women to access sexual pleasure. That means we must provide adolescents entering into early unions and child marriage with comprehensive sex education. Dangerous myths about virginity also aid in young women and girls marrying young, and cultural changes need to take place so that girls don’t see marriage as a sexual contract. The sexual rights of young people should expand so that teenagers themselves understand their own sexual liberation and reproductive health.